As part of the second year Internship module here at the university, I was very lucky to have the chance to spend two weeks working with African and Macaroni Penguins at Living Coasts in Torquay during the Christmas break. During my time there I watched and investigated how much time the penguins would spend interacting with a chosen enrichment – and I chose bubbles! It doesn’t sound like work does it?
I found out that the penguins there absolutely love bubbles – almost as much as people do! They would chase and peck and them, or simply gaze in fascination as the bubbles floated past them. I conducted a behavioural study using ethograms for each species, and spent 20 hours (in all weathers!) observing the penguins. I then came back to university after the holidays, and with some help from Anne, crunched the data – and the penguins were found to have spent a statistically significant amount of time interacting with the bubbles!
As well as carrying out my study, I also had the opportunity to help out with the keeper duties, for example, preparing food for the animals, and I had the chance to hand feed the penguins, and conduct throw in feeds for the seals and Blue Spotted Rays.
I had a fantastic time and met some amazing people (and animals!) at Living Coasts, and without this module I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do any of these things at any other time. The study I carried out has also helped me in choosing my dissertation for the coming year. I highly recommend taking the module yourself; you can make contacts within your desired field, enjoy amazing opportunities, and hone your field skills.
You can learn more about Living Coasts by visiting their website here: http://www.livingcoasts.org.uk/
Grace Lee-Smith, BSc Biology student