Thursday, November 10, 2011

Packing for South Africa

Anyone who has traveled knows that there are equal parts excitement and nerves bouncing around your brain. And on the eve of my travels to South Africa, that’s exactly where I‘m feeling. Nerves and excitement!

My name is Jo and I’m an educator in the Visitor Experience team at the Aquarium. I teach our visitors all about the ocean world, the animals that live there and how we can help make it a better place. It’s a tall order to be sure! But fortunately I have some great animals and exhibits to talk about which makes it a lot easier. And what exhibit do I find myself talking a lot about? Our penguins!

Teaching visitors about turtles

People seem to bond with them easily, falling head over tails for their waddles, vocalizations and fantastic wardrobe choices. But many people don’t know how tough it can be to be a penguin. That’s where I come in. I can share the story of our penguin colony and use them to talk to visitors about penguins in the wild and the challenges they face. And that is the reason I find myself packing for the trip of an educator’s lifetime.

Aquarium's Penguin Exhibit (Sarah Estrada)

Thanks to a professional development grant given by the Aquarium, I am headed to South Africa to learn more about the African penguin, the struggles they face and what people are doing to help. I‘ll be volunteering at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) where I will see and experience first hand how this organization works to rehabilitate oiled, injured, sick and orphaned birds. I will also be able to talk to other educators in South Africa, learning how they educate and spread the word about these amazing birds. In the end, all of this information will come back with me to Boston and be used to further our educational messages about these animals.

Penguins on the beach (WikiCommons)

So here it is. The eve of my trip and the nerves are still there. But after thinking about what I’ll be doing, the balance is starting to tip more and more into the excited column. I hope that you’ll read along for the next few weeks and see how amazing penguins can be. In the meantime, I have to continue packing!


Learn more about the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB and their Chick Bolstering Project.

Follow the adventures of Jo's co-worker, Paul! Aquarium penguin biologist Paul Leonard is also in South Africa to study and care for African penguins in the Southern Hemisphere! Read about his experience on the Penguin Blog.


  1. We're all so excited for you Jo!!

  2. Thanks for doing this great work! Hope it's the best experience for you and the penguins! Maybe you'll be key in reversing they're downward trend.