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LSD with Emperor and Adelie penguins in Antarctica

Professor Penguin: discovery and adventure with penguins

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The story of Professor Penguin starts with Lloyd as a carefree young bachelor pursuing his lifelong ambition to go to Antarctica. Over the course of the next three-and-a-half decades, Davis studies the fate of that penguin he first encounters and others like it. He ponders how the penguins get to the colony and find a nest site, how they find a mate, find food, escape predators and rear their chicks. He is fascinated by the great journeys they must make, the hardships they must endure, and he marvels at their survival.

This book is first and foremost a record of research, a compendium of what we know about penguins and how that knowledge has been advanced over the years. It is also part memoir: Davis’ recollections of more than three decades as a field biologist in one of the most inhospitable regions on Earth. Through all of this there runs a kind of ethos – a philosophy – that while unspoken is clearly there on every page: that the more we learn about the lives of other creatures like penguins, the more they can inform us about our own lives.

Published by Penguin Random House in 2014. More information can be obtained from the website: www.profpenguin.com

Reviews


The Dunedin biologist has this week published Professor Penguin, in which he balances a plethora of research with anecdotes based on journals he has kept in a career spanning more than 35 years.

Scientific rigour might have required Davis to maintain a dispassionate distance from his subject at times, but the story-teller in him (he is, after all, also a film-maker and director of the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago) cannot help but join a few narrative dots as well as revel in nature's nuances.

Indeed, a book entry in which Davis describes one occasion in the Antarctic says plenty:''It was somehow life-affirming, to sit there before the silent pack-ice, the raucous penguins and the killer whales and to be confronted by the thought that all this splendour, all this thing we call life, was indeed so splendid that it defied description, defied our attempts to render it as numbers on a sheet.

''It was enough to know that this was life, that in that half-hour we had been touched by something fundamental about the world and about evolution itself. Life is so much more than the sum of its parts.''
Simon Gilchrist, Otago Daily Times

[Penguins] They’re loveable, cute and raise caring families with their mate for life, right? Wrong. A new book by author and biologist Lloyd Spencer Davis — known as Professor Penguin — busts the box-office myths
Herald on Sunday