Question Sheet: Penguin Pressure


Before reading:

  1. Penguins are what type of animal?
  2. Where do they live?
  3. Are there many types or do they all belong to one species?
  4. How many are eaten by polar bears each year (Hint: Where do polar bears


During reading:

  1. How did Dee Boersma fight to save penguins from a boardwalk?
  2. What are the two main threats to penguins?
  3. How can global warming affect penguins?
  4. Where does the biggest population of penguins live?
  5. What are the food sources for Punta Tombo penguins, and what’s happening to

    those foods?

  6. How have the penguins adapted to the changes in their food supplies?
  7. How much time do penguins spend at sea?
  8. What can scientists learn from the tracking devices they’re attaching to


After Reading

  1. Why do we care about penguins?
  2. What can we learn about our environment by studying penguins?
  3. What role do people play in putting pressure on penguins?
  4. What role can people play in saving penguins threatened with extinction?


  1. In the beginning of the story, biologist Dee Boersma actually sabotaged a

    government project in the country she was visiting. Do you think she was

    justified in this act of civil disobedience? Explain why or why not. What other

    ways might she have tried to achieve the same goals? Do you think they would

    have been as successful?

  2. Penguins tend to live far away from people (with the exception of the

    Magellanic penguins in Argentina). It costs large sums of money to study them

    and, ultimately, to protect them. When money is tight, as it is today, do you

    think we should still use money to study penguins and other features of the

    environment so far from most humanity? Explain your answer. (Hint: There is no

    right or wrong answer as long as you think it through and give a reasoned


  3. As climate change forces penguins to move farther from their ancestral

    beaches — and to beaches where people have already settled — conflicts will

    inevitably develop over who has rights to the territory. If you were a local

    government official and had to choose between protecting space for endangered

    penguins or letting the animals fend for themselves, which policy would you

    advocate? Why? If you were a homeowner who used a nearby beach that penguins

    were now roosting at, would you accept temporarily or permanent closures of that

    beach to humans so that the birds would be protected? Why?

  4. Penguins are very cute and as such become popular attractions at zoos. Do

    you think penguin exhibits at zoos are a good teaching tool? Why or why not? If

    the only alternative was to see them in the wild, on television or in books, how

    would your appreciation for these birds likely change?


  1. Write a short poem about the way humans have been altering the penguins’


  2. Imagine that Dee Boersma has room for one student to accompany her for three

    weeks next year to study Magellanic penguins. She’ll select the student who

    explains best why she or he should go, what he or she wants to learn and how she

    or he will later share the insights picked up on the trip with other people.

    Write a letter suggesting why you would be the best candidate.

  3. In the first scene described in the story, Dr. Boersma was an activist,

    someone looking to stand in the way of even legal activities to save the

    penguins she studies. Prepare for a debate in class, coming up with at least

    four persuasive arguments why the actions she took were right, and at least four

    more on why they were wrong. Prepare to be able to argue either side, not just

    the one you might agree with.