About this episode

Join in the fun as Ranger Jordan and Ranger Skye talk all things Little Penguin in our very first episode of Nature Unfiltered, a new podcast by Phillip Island Nature Parks. Special guest Research Technical Officer Paula dishes up the inside information on what it’s like to work with the world’s smallest species of penguin, we learn how to communicate like a penguin and give you tips to protect penguin habitat from wherever you are in the world. If you enjoyed Live Penguin TV, you won’t want to miss this.


Behind the scenes videos

Watch the footage captured during the recording of this podcast episode on our Instagram story highlights.

Instagram story highlights


Transcript

Skye

This is 'Nature Unfiltered', where you meet our team, hear their stories and become inspired to protect nature for wildlife in your own corner of the world.

G'day, everybody. Welcome to 'Nature Unfiltered'. My name is Skye.

Jordan

And my name is Jordan. Welcome to our very first episode of the podcast. Woohoo! We are rangers here at Phillip Island Nature Parks, which is a not-for-profit conservation organization.

Skye

And we're going to be having so much fun on this podcast. We are going to be interviewing some members of our team, we're going to be doing challenges from the silly to the serious, we're going to be telling jokes, finding out about wildlife. It's going to be a really fun podcast. So I hope you stick around.

Jordan

So we are here recording on Phillip Island, and Phillip Island is also known by another name, and that is Millowl. Millowl is the name given by the Bunurong who are the traditional custodians of the land here on Phillip Island. And I would like to pay my respects to the Bunurong and acknowledge their elders past, present, and emerging for the ongoing, sustainable maintenance and management of Phillip Island, of Millowl over so many thousands of years.

Skye

Now, of course, we're starting this podcast, Jordan and when you're starting a podcast about Phillip Island Nature Parks, about Phillip Island, what subject are you going to pick?

Jordan

Oh, Skye. I really have no idea. Can I have a clue?

Skye

Um, they parade.

Jordan

They parade.

Skye

They come at night. They look like they are wearing little suits. Ooh, very small, very cute. We're famous for them.

Jordan

Could it, could it be penguins?

Skye

Oh my goodness. Is it penguins?

Jordan

It's the Little Penguins. Oh my golly goodness.

Skye

So today we're going to be talking all things penguin. We are, we've got an interview with Paula, uh, who is our research technical officer. We have, we're going to be talking about the penguins and, and how they come up to shore every single night. We're going to be talking a little bit about, um, Oh, and Jordan's got a really fun challenge.

Jordan

It's going to be very fun and very embarrassing. I hope you're all looking forward to it, and you all enjoy when we do it a little bit later in this episode.

Skye

But let's talk a little bit about the penguins first.

Jordan

So, uh, what are the need to know facts Skye?

Skye

Hmm. Okay. So our Little Penguins, they are the smallest and the cutest penguins in the whole entire world.

Jordan

Oh absolutely

Skye

Absolutely. Without a doubt, they are about one kilo in weight, about 33 centimetres tall,

Jordan

The only penguins in the world with blue feathers.

Skye

Very rare, very unique.

Jordan

Very unique. And that is because they, because they're so small, they're not very good at defending themselves against big, scary predatory birds. So when they're out fishing, foraging, diving, all of that stuff out in the big blue ocean, they can camouflage against the surface of the water. So they're very, very, very clever these Little Penguins.

Skye

Mm. And then they all gather together just before sunset and they call to one another.

Jordan

They do. And this is going to be a really important thing to remember. Just a little bit of, we need we're going to teach you a few penguin phrases, I think, in this episode. So you might be able to speak semi-fluent penguin after this point, but, uh, when they're gathering, when they're in their rafts out in the ocean, they make a sound called a Huck. It sounds like (penguin noises) and that's them saying, is that dark enough? Can we cross the beach yet? Is there anyone else out there? Can we go, what do we think cause crossing the beach at the end of the day is the most dangerous time of day for these Little Penguins.

Skye

So Jordan, can you tell us what's happening in the penguin colony at the moment?

Jordan

Well, Skye our Little Penguins have well and truly finished up with their breeding season, which usually ends at the end, end of summer, the start of autumn. They're finishing up with the annual moult, where they lose and replace all of their feathers in a two and a half to three week period so that in the middle of winter, when they spend most of their time out in the ocean, they can be out there, nice, warm, and comfortable without that cold seawater, touching their skin. Cause these penguins can spend anywhere from one day up to a few weeks out at sea at a time. But when we get into autumn, mid to late autumn, sometimes we see a little bit of penguin romance. Sometimes the penguins have an autumn breeding attempt. It's spring-like conditions, there's love in the air. So sometimes we say a little bit of courting and mating displays, and if the conditions are good, sometimes the penguins might lay some eggs and raise some chicks.

Skye

So today for our penguin episode, we have decided that we're going to talk to a very special guest, who is her name is Paula, and she's a research technical officer here at Phillip Island Nature Parks. She works very closely with the penguins. I'm so excited to talk to her Jordan. So let's get her on the line.

Hello, Paula, are you there?

Paula

Hello Skye, yes I am.

Skye

Fantastic. It's lovely to hear you, Paula. Can you just tell us a little bit about, about your role? Why are we interviewing you today for our episode on penguins?

Paula

So, yes, I do work really closely with the penguins. I do a lot of the hands-on work with the penguins, in fact, so that's anything like the, you know, checking the burrows, seeing the breeding success of the birds, what stage of the annual cycle they're in, do a lot of scientific things like taking blood samples, so stable isotope analysis. I have been called the poo queen because I do collect a lot of, uh, penguin poo samples for DNA analysis. Now both the stable isotope analysis and the DNA analysis of both for diet testing. So yes, I do a lot of hands-on things with them.

Skye

Yeah, fantastic. And so here on Nature Unfiltered, we are all about protecting nature for wildlife. So how does your role help protect nature for wildlife do you reckon.

Paula

Look, I think research is the basis for forming management decisions and things like that, um, particularly here at the nature parks, but I think everywhere else as well, it's really important to have that research background so, you know, what needs to be conserved, how it's to be done and if it's working or not. For me, I, I see myself as very much the first step in that almost, the on the groundwork to, I'll be the first one to detect if there is something wrong with the penguins, for example, or, and I do collect that data, collect the information on what's going on with the penguins while they're out in the oceans and also when they're out, um, on land as well.

Skye

Yep. And then, um, you would give that data to other members of your scientific team.

Paula

Yes, absolutely. Yes. So I'll then pass my data on to Dr Andre who will then write the papers and crunch numbers a bit. Yeah.

Skye

Yeah. And I thought it was really interesting that you said that. Yeah, we really are based on research. That is a big part of our sort of mantra here at Phillip Island Nature Parks, isn't it? That it's, that it's conservation-based research, but research, uh, based conservation as well. Isn't it?

Paula

Absolutely. Yeah. Research lead management. That's very much what we do, how we form a lot of our management decisions here.

Skye

Yeah. Perfect. So, of course, if you're going out into the field on a pretty daily basis, I guess you must have some fun stories about penguins.

Look, I'll share several stories with you. There's not a, no one stands out. I think it's really important because I do work on the ground. It's not a glamorous role that I have. Let's make that very clear. I think I've really made it clear by my nickname, Poo Queen

Yep, that doesn't sound, it's not a very glamorous nickname Paula. No. Well, "Queen" though, you're royalty!

Paula

You know, I am on the ground. I'm often covered head to toe in penguin poo, just this morning I was pulling a chick out and it's flicked poo up in my face. And that happens regularly. The first bit of advice I ever got was when I was still volunteering with penguins before I was working with them, was to always wear a bra when I'm out in the field and I can attest that that is very true. They have very sharp, sharp beaks.

Skye

Oh goodness. I think everybody in the audience is probably just doing a little collective wince and sort of crossing their arms over their chest right now.

Paula

Yes. So look, I've got, I'm pretty, pretty good in my time. Now I've been doing this for 12 years now, so it doesn't happen that often now, but it'd be something to keep in mind,

Skye

but you still get a little bit of poo flicked in the face.

Paula

Oh, yeah. Oh, that you can't avoid that. A couple of funny things that have happened that I guess, the things that I've found inside burrows, I guess, um, we check both like natural burrows that the penguins dig out, and they'll obviously they've got boxes that we've put out here as well, to help, you know, encourage penguins in areas that we've rehabilitated. Once I had a volunteer out with me, he was checking a natural burrow and he was a really good volunteer. So I was just standing there with my list of burrows, just pointing it at a burrow, telling him to check it. And he went to check one, I pointed at one, number 26, and he looked at it and goes. 'Oh, do I still check it if there's a snake hanging out of it?'

Skye

Oh, wow.

Paula

No, no, we don't need to check that one. And another time is actually with Lauren who's our, um, penguin foundation officer. She's an incredibly passionate conservationist and incredibly, intelligent woman. And she'd come out volunteering with me quite a few times, cause she's just so passionate about it all. At one time she was checking, now this is an artificial box that we had put in place, but the lid was nailed shut. So she had to stick a hand into the entrance. And she goes "Paula, it feels like there's a giant hedgehog in the box."

Anyway, we're in Australia. So it was an echidna. And an echidna takes up good three-quarters of a penguin box and it was in there with two penguins as well. I don't know how they all fit.

Skye

Ooh, that sounds like a prickly bedfellow.

Paula

Yeah, I know. I know. We're just going to leave that scene alone. I came back a few days later to check and they had all left, so they were okay. But...

Skye

I can imagine those poor little penguins when the echidna arrived just went, Oh no, this is going to be a long day.

Paula

I know they couldn't, they couldn't get out. So the echidna had to come out first, Eventually, but yeah, a few interesting things have gone on.

Skye

Oh my goodness. So it sounds like there's never a dull moment, uh, in your line of work. It sounds fantastic. So on that if somebody would like to, uh, follow in your footsteps, what should they do? What steps should they take to, to follow in your career journey?

Paula

So I did a Science degree, um, and I majored in Conservation Ecology and also Zoology and I completed my honors in Zoology, actually working with the penguins. So that is one way to get into this role. I do recommend that if anyone is interested in doing anything with wildlife or in conservation to get out there and volunteer as much as possible, it's really important. One, you get the experience. And two, to figure out what your passion is, you know, what is the thing that sparks joy for you. What is it that really gets you going, find that out and then pursue that and, you know, hold onto it with two hands and go for it really.

And especially if you're, if you're a woman in science, or thinking about science, go for it, please, because we need more of you in the field.

Skye

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's exactly right. I think a lot of rangers at Phillip Island Nature Parks did start through volunteering. So it's, uh, I think really sage advice that you've got there. Fantastic. So for our listeners, um, how can they help the penguins at home? Of course, many of our listeners won't be living on Phillip Island. They might feel a bit removed from the penguins, disconnected from the penguins, but I think there's things that we can all be doing to help. All around the world. So what could our listeners do to help the penguins?

Paula

Yeah, absolutely. There are lots of things. I'll just mention a few of them. Uh, so we do know that with climate change, uh, the penguins will feel the impact of that, they spend 80% of their time out in the oceans and things like the increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification, that's going to impact them. So anything that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is vital. Uh, and look, you don't have to be perfect at it. That's not what we're after. Uh, doing lots of little things imperfectly, you know, just something as simple as unplugging appliances that you're not using from the wall. That way they're not on standby, so everyone can do that. That's not difficult. Um, maybe you can put solar panels on your home or, you know, choose a more efficient car. There are things that everybody can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

Skye

And lots of little choices make a big difference. Don't they?

Paula

Absolutely that's right. We're all doing a little bit. That's good, that's going to make an impact. Um, another one is, and this is going to help a lot of things, not just little penguins but also reducing your plastic consumption and disposing of your plastic properly. A few things to think about at the moment are things like, you know, your mask, the loops on your mask, making sure that if you're using a disposable mask, you cut those loops or your six-pack holders, you know, cutting them up and disposing of them properly.

One thing I actually find on the beach quite a bit is the, um, plastic rings from bottles. So cutting them so they're not, so none of these things, um, create like entanglement risks for penguins and other seabirds, because they can get their heads stuck through these loops or, or their legs stuck in them. So really important to get rid of any sort of loopy things like that and dispose of them properly, even better not to use that plastic at all.

Skye

And it's such a once again, it's such a small thing to do is to cut those little loops. Isn't it.

Paula

Yes, absolutely something we can all do. And the final thing I want to touch on is two things. Sustainable seafood. It's really important for yourself. You know, the penguins, all they eat is seafood. That's all they have, you know, they eat a bit of squid, they eat a few sea jellies, but they eat a lot of fish and choosing sustainable fish is really important, not just for you, but also have a look at what your cat is eating. Yeah. If your cat is eating fish have look at the back and it's sardines, well that's penguin food, you know, is there another dish you can choose for your cat that might not be impacting the penguins.

Skye

Yeah, a sustainable choice. Ah, fantastic. I think that's a really great advice for everyone, Paula. Thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast.

Paula

Not a problem. Thank you for having me.

Skye

No worries. I will speak to you soon. Bye.

All right, Jordan. So we are now up to the part of the podcast where we issue a challenge. Now we're going to issue a challenge each week to one of the hosts and it could be something silly. It could be something serious. It could be something that you could do as a volunteer here at Phillip Island Nature Parks. It could be something you could do as a visitor, it could be something that our Rangers do that we don't normally do. It's going to be a different challenge sort of every week, probably on the theme. So this week it was on the theme of penguins. And it was a challenge for you, wasn't it Jordan?

Jordan

Most certainly was. And we may have kind of even foreshadowed a little bit what this challenge is going to entail. Uh, so again, it's going to be a little bit of penguin language and me embarrassing myself pretty much in front of all Phillip Island Nature Parks staff.

Skye

Yeah. So I thought it'd be really funny if Jordan, for a whole day at work had to greet every single person that she saw with the penguin greeting, "Huck Huck."

Jordan

So remember that huck huck that's the sound that the penguins make when they're gathering out in the water, preparing to cross the beach in a nice big group because there's safety in numbers. So it's a pretty universal phrase here at the nature parks, but I'm going to be going to a few of our different venues and we'll see how people, at the Koala Conservation Reserve, Churchill Island Heritage Farm, see how they react, cause they don't typically work with penguins on a day to day basis. So I think it's going to be a little bit of fun.

Skye

Very embarrassing. I think.

Jordan

How embarrassment. Alrighty. Oh, you're ready?

Okay. Hi everyone. I'm here at the Koala Conservation Reserve, getting ready to take on Skye's challenge. So I'm going to be walking on the boardwalks, through the buildings and into the offices and every staff member that I meet, I'm going to greet Huck Huck and record their reactions. It's going to be really embarrassing, but it's going to be a lot of fun. I hope you're all ready, I'm looking forward to it.

Jordan greets various people with "Huck huck" and people respond with "Huck huck" or are confused.

Skye

How embarrassing Jordan.

Jordan

So embarrassing, that was so much fun though Skye. I'm not going to lie. I think the people who I was, um, filming were more embarrassed than I was.

Skye

Oh, I'm sure they were, but I just think it's really funny that they didn't even, a lot of them didn't even seem to think twice that you were saying Huck, Huck, Huck to them. They were just like, "Oh yeah, How's it going? Huck. Huck."

Jordan

"Hey Jordan, what's up?"

Skye

"This is normal Jordan behavior," they thought.

Jordan

Yeah,

Skye

How does that make you feel about yourself.

Jordan

It's making me have a long, hard look at myself, I think. And if you would like to see me make a fool of myself and embarrass my colleagues along the way, jump onto our social media and check out the challenge for yourself.

All right, everyone. We are ready to continue the funnies. And this is going to be a little joke segment and both Skye and I have gone away and we've researched some penguin related jokes to make you laugh and groan. So I hope you're all ready.

Skye

All right. This is a bit of a mean one. Ooh, I'm sorry penguins. What's uh, what's blue, white, blue, white, blue, white, blue, white.

Jordan

Nup, no idea.

Skye

A penguin rolling down a hill. Sorry penguins!

Jordan

But definitely, something that you might see if you come and visit the Penguin Parade. Absolutely.

Skye

Oh gosh.

Jordan

Alrighty Skye. Can you tell me, what is a penguin's favourite family member?

Skye

Oh, what is a Penguin's favourite family member?

Jordan

Aunt - Arctica. Oh, you're too kind. Thank you, everyone.

Skye

That's an absolute shocker. Now this one's a little bit of a long-form joke. Uh, so look just, you're gonna have to bear with me for this one. Um, all right. So there's a guy who sees a lonely penguin, wandering the streets around here, in Cowes. So pretty weird. We don't usually get them in Cowes.

Jordan

Now also, we just want to say that Cowes is, we're not talking about the animal cows. It's actually like the main town of Phillip Island. Go on.

Skye

Yep. So yeah, not, not walking around a cow, walking around a town. Um, so this person sees the lonely penguin and he goes, "Oh no lonely penguin". So he takes him immediately to the nearest police station to ask him for advice. And he says, ah, officer, look, I found this penguin, what should I do? And the officer sort of goes, "Hmm, I don't know. Look, what's he doing in Cowes, like take him down to the Nature Parks, take him down to the penguin parade, they'll sort it out."

We've got a clinic, we've got all the penguins, we've got the colony down there. We'll sort it out. So the man agrees, he leaves the police station. But later that night, the police officer looks out the window in Cowes and sees the man and the penguin walking down the street. He's furious. So he rushes out to them and he says, "Didn't I tell you to take him to the Penguin Parade. What are you still doing here?

And confused and a bit irritated, the man responds, "Hey, why are you shouting at me? I did, like you said, I took him to the penguin parade. He loved it. Now we're going to do mini-golf."

Jordan

No, that's a good one. Well done.

Alrighty, everyone. So our next segment for this episode is going to be Guess That Noise, and I have a few little clips that I'm going to be playing for Ranger Skye. And I want her to try and guess whose voice it belongs to, who she thinks she's hearing in these video clips. Are you ready Skye?

Skye

Yeah, sure.

Jordan

Let's give it a go.

Skye

Well, that's sounding like a penguin. Is it a penguin?

Jordan

It is a penguin. Do I need to get more specific than that?

You need to get much more specific.

Skye

All right. There are 18 different species that uhh, look, I know that the African penguin was called the jackass penguin, Michaela Strachan told me about that because they sound like a donkey and that sounded a bit like a donkey. Was that a jackass penguin?

Jordan

Skye. That was a Little Penguin.

Skye

I thought that was too easy. I was like, it sounds like, ours, ah, okay.

Jordan

I was like, she's totally going to get this one. No doubt about it.

Skye

I thought so. I thought it sounded like ours, I'm like, "Oh, maybe they all sound like ours". I thought "she wouldn't give me that first up." Alright.

Jordan

Alrighty Skye. Are you ready for our next sound?

Skye

Sure.

Note

A noise plays that sounds like a donkey.

Skye

That sounds like a donkey. That's gotta be the African Penguin.

Jordan

It most certainly is, you got 1 of 2 correct. Alrighty. Now for number three.

Note

An animal noise plays.

Skye

It sounds. Um, look, everyone loves an Emperor Penguin? Close? Smaller?

Jordan

I'm sorry. I've been a little bit mean to you Skye. It's actually a Puffin an Atlantic Puffin.

Skye

I should know that, I've seen puffins before.

Jordan

Oh my gosh. I'm so jealous. Oh, they're, they're really cute.

Skye

Not as cute as a penguin, but for pretty close, pretty close. Oh, that was, that was tough, Jordan.

Jordan

Sorry, sorry. I for sure thought you were going to get our Little Penguin.

Skye

I'm quite embarrassed about that.

Jordan

So next episode here on Nature Unfiltered is going to be focusing on seals. Everyone loves seals, and next episode is going to be hosted by Ranger Skye and Ranger Meagan, who you might be familiar with. She has been one of our stars on our previous live penguin TVs.

Skye

Yep. And I'm going to issue Meagan a challenge for the next episode. I would like her since we're going to be talking about seals. I would like her to head out with our seal researchers and help with their drone flying, out to monitor our colony of Australian Fur Seals, which is just off the coast near the Nobbies. So I want her to help the researchers with their drone flying. And then I want her to take on the seal spotter challenge, which is something that all of our listeners can get involved with too. And if you want to hear more about it, you're just going to have to tune in next time.

Jordan

Well, check out our website in the meantime, if you are super duper excited.

Skye

Okay. That sounds like fun. And we've got a bit of a challenge for all of you guys, uh, for the next little while too. And that is to purchase sustainable seafood. It is pretty easy to do. You've just got to know-how. So the way to do it is you go to www.goodfish.org.au, and that website will tell you all you need to know about sustainable seafood.

The other thing you can look for is a blue fish that looks like a tick on your seafood. That is the logo of the Marine Stewardship Council. If you see that blue fishy tick, you know you're eating sustainable seafood. So that is the way that you can make sure you're looking after the planet, looking after our penguins and, uh, making sure that it's a, it's a nice world for everyone into the future.

Jordan

Absolutely. The penguins will definitely thank you for it. That brings us to the end of our very first episode, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in. Check us out next time for more fun.

Skye

Bye, everyone!

Jordan

Bye!

Note

Bloopers

Jordan

Our migratory seabirds... (laughing).

Skye

Try that one again? Yeah, absolutely. Sorry. I just remembered we've got these so we can practice with them.

Jordan

Hello everyone. And welcome back to natured unfiltered. My name is Jordan.

Skye

Sorry, you said natured.

Jordan

Did I say natured?

Skye

Natured unfiltered.