A smelly date with penguins but she's in her element

A smelly date with penguins but she's in her element
Ms Goh examining a Leach’s Storm Petrel chick during a field trip earlier this year to Buldir Island, off Alaska. Her latest stint will take her to Livingston Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula.

SINGAPORE - While most Singaporeans get to watch penguins only in animal shows on TV and in movies like March Of The Penguins, field assistant Michelle Goh has the chance to do far more - she will be "settling in" among the birds for four months.

The 26-year-old, who left Singapore last Monday, will be based on Livingston Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula, as she collects data on native gentoo and chinstrap penguins.

She has been hired by an American scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, who is conducting Antarctic marine research for conservation purposes.

For four months, Ms Goh will work with six American scientists and field assistants to keep tabs on penguins that have been tagged with a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device. The researchers will compile a variety of information about the birds, such as how much they weigh and when they lay their eggs.

This will be the first time that Ms Goh, who has a master's in animal conservation from Imperial College in London, will be working with penguins.

Though they look lovable on screen, she knows conducting research on them is another matter.

"Penguins are not easy to handle. They struggle a lot," she said. "I've been told to hold them down by putting them between my legs and shouting 'eeeaaa' so they stay still."

"Without a doubt, this job will make it to Dirty Jobs," she added, referring to the popular Discovery Channel TV show that features extreme work conditions. "I've been to penguin colonies and they are really smelly."

She noted that when people try to hold the birds, they get scared so they defecate.

"There's no point showering every day when we crawl on hands and knees and put our faces on the wall covered with their droppings," she said.

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