Penguins, plants, and people: Getting to the core of climate change in the Falkland Islands

Backed by Paul-Gabriel Wiener, Don Hudson, James Wilson, Josephine W. Ewing, Eric Lynch, Ethan White, Beth White, Louise Ewing, Greg And Nick Hamley, Hadley Wickham, and 179 other backers
University of Maine
Biddeford, Maine
EcologyEarth Science
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/3682
Raised of $10,000 Goal
Funded on 12/04/14
Successfully Funded
  • $10,857
  • 108%
  • Funded
    on 12/04/14

About This Project

The Falklands Islands are a biodiversity hotspot in the South Atlantic, but are threatened by climate and land use change. To protect penguins, marine mammals, and other species, we need to better understand how the islands have responded to past periods of rapid climate change. Funds raised through this campaign will help us take peat cores, to establish a climate and ecological history for the Falkland Islands spanning the last 20,000 years.

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What is the context of this research?

The Falklands are home to some of the world’s largest penguin, seal and seabird breeding grounds, and several species of birds and insects that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Small isolated islands located at high latitudes are more susceptible to threats associated with future climate change. Despite this, very little scientific research has been done to understand the natural and human history of the islands in relation to past abrupt changes in climate. Lucky for us, this history is well recorded in both lake sediments and peat bogs. However, land use change and sea level rise have begun to rapidly erode these climate records, making it essential that we begin this research now, before those records are lost forever.

What is the significance of this project?

Conservation efforts are urgent in order to sustain these unique ecosystems as well as the livelihood of Falkland Islanders. Up to this point, the Falkland Islands have been a relatively understudied area. Establishing a climate history will act as a springboard, allowing us to explore more varied and in depth questions regarding past, present and future events related to ecosystem structure, species interactions, and human impacts on the environment. We have already established a partnership with The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute, Falkland Islands Conservation, The Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, and the minister of Agriculture in order to begin addressing the questions that will help us inform and prioritize future restoration and protection strategies.

What are the goals of the project?

Funds raised through this campaign will allow us to travel to the Falkland Islands to collect lake and lagoon sediment cores, and peat and tussac cores from several locations throughout the islands.

These sediment cores contain preserved charcoal, cholesterol from seabird guano, and pollen data. Using these records we are able to analyze fire history, seabird population abundance, and vegetation composition, respectively.

Using this information we can begin to answer questions about species interactions, community structure and human history.


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Funding will be used to to collect sediment and peat cores in the Falkland Islands. We estimate that our field and lab work will be greater than $20,000 and through this campaign we are asking you to help us raise $10,000. Funds you help us raise will be used to help us get there to do this cool science! While we are there we must hire our local knowledgeable driver, Tony, who is familiar with the extremely fragile nature of the Falklands landscape and an amazing field assistant. Funds will be used to ship our cores to Maine. Once back in the lab we will need to buy supplies and process our cores. Processing of our core samples will include stable isotopes, charcoal, and radiocarbon dating. While you will be making a significant investment in our careers, it is also very important that you help us collect these cores ASAP because these records are threatened by global changes. There is an 8% website service charge fee, but the rest of your donation will go directly to our research!

Meet the Team

Dulcinea Groff and Kit Hamley
Dulcinea Groff and Kit Hamley

Team Bio

Dulcinea Groff -My interest of islands andclimate comes from a desire to devote my life to benevolent work. My passion for the natural world stems from growing up on a small organic farm, living in foreign countries, running ultra marathons and rock climbing. I manage to mesh professional and personal interests by working in mountains of the Sierra Nevada, CA and the Cordillera Blanca, Peru! I now face a dream opportunity to study climate change and how it impacts island ecosystems.

Kit Hamley - My academic interests are human, climate, environmental interactions throughout time. As an avid outdoor enthusiast, skier and whitewater kayaker, it is no wonder I have ended up in a field that affords me the opportunity to do research in some incredible places. My hope is that the research I do, will ultimately lead to the preservation and conservation of the wild and unique environments and species that I interact with, so that future generations can enjoy them as much as I do.

Additional Information

If you are interested in seeing more about what we do and what our partners in the Falklands are up to, check out these links!

Dr. Jacquelyn Gill - Advisor Extraordinare

The Climate Change Institute

The School of Biology and Ecology

The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute

The Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust

Falkland Islands Conservation

The Falkland Islands

This is a fantastic mini video series that gives a real inside look at the Falkland Island. It's definitely worth checking out!

51 Degrees South

Project Backers

  • 189Backers
  • 108%Funded
  • $10,857Total Donations
  • $50.09Average Donation
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