Dr. P. Dee Boersma


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Dr. P. Dee Boersma is the Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science in the University of Washington’s department of Biology. She has been at the University of Washington since 1974, initially as professor of Zoology and then as professor of Biology following the merger of the Zoology, Biology and Botany departments. She was Acting Chair of the Biology department from 2005 to 2006 and is an adjunct faculty member in the Women Studies department.

Dr. Boersma first went to the Galápagos Island in 1970 to do her dissertation on Galápagos penguins. She lived on un-inhabitated Fernandina Island, the most western island in the archipelago, at Pta. Espinosa, now a major tourist destination. She camped with sea lions, marine iguanas, and one land iguana for over a year while studying the penguins. She returned to the Galápagos many times in the intervening years and documented the impact the 1972 and 1998 El Niño events had on the Galápagos penguin and other seabirds. We now recognize El Niño events are global in their impact. During her stay on the island in 1970 Boersma met Godfrey Merlen. In 2010 she and Godfrey teamed up with the Galápagos National Park to see if they could rebuild the Galápagos penguin population back to what it was in the 1970’s. They built 120 nests in the lava for Galápagos penguins in 2010 and so far 9 penguins have bred successfully in their nests. In addition to her work in the Galápagos, she continues her 30+year study on Magellanic penguins in Argentina, founded the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels, and works closely with the Global Penguin Society to protect penguins at sea and on land.


Honorary Doctorate, 2003, Central Michigan University, Michigan

Ph.D. Zoology, 1974, Ohio State University, Ohio

B.Sc.(Honors)  Biology, 1969, Central Michigan University, Michigan


Fulbright Fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand (2010)

Heinz Award (2009)

American Ornithologists’ Union Elliott Coues Award (2008)

Grace Hopper Outstanding Achievement Award (2008)

Education Fellow in the Life Sciences, National Academies (2006-2007)

Distinguished Service Award, Society for Conservation Biology (2006)

Leopold Fellow (2000-2001)

AAAS Fellow, Elected (2000)

Pew Fellow in Conservation and the Environment (1997-2000)

William Evans Visiting Fellow, University of Otago, New Zealand (1995)

Elected Fellow, American Ornithologists’ Union (1994)

Dean’s Achievement Award, University of Washington (1994)

Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Washington (1993)

Outstanding Centennial Alumni Award, Central Michigan University (1993)

Top 10 Outsiders of the Year Award, Outside magazine (1987)

Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship (1982-1985)


Board of Directors, Natural History Network (2008 to date)

Executive Editor, Conservation Biology In Practice (2000 to date)

Advisory Board, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park (1994 to date)

Scientific Advisor, Penguin Taxon Advisory Group, AAZPA (1992 to date)

Scientific Fellow, Wildlife Conservation Society N.Y.Z.S, elected (1982 to date)

Board of Directors, Peregrine Fund (1995-2002, 2003 -2012)

Member, U.S. National Committee, International Union for Biological Science (2001-2007)

Governing Board, Ecological Society of American (2004-2006)

Board of Directors, Islandwood (2001-2006)

Board of Editors, El Horneno (2002-2005)

Board of Governors, Society for Conservation Biology (1991-2005)

Ocean Science Advisory Board, Conservation International (2002-2004)

Naturalist, Lindblad Expeditions, Antarctica (2001-2004)

Board of Scientific Experts Comm. Partnership for Science and the Sea (2000-2004)

Advisory Board Island Press: Initiative on Environmental Instruction (1999-2004)

Board of Editors, Ecological Applications (1999-2002)

CRC Science Review Committee, Smithsonian (2001)

Past President, Society for Conservation Biology (1999-2001)

Principal Investigator, National Review of Recovery Plans for SCB and FWS (1998-2001)

Board of Directors, Bullitt Foundation (1997-2001)

Society for Conservation Biology, Board of Governors (1991-current; President 1997-1999)

Peregrine Fund, Board of Directors (1995-1998)

Washington Nature Conservancy, Board of Directors (1997-1998)

Bullitt Foundation, Board of Directors (1997-1998)

Pacific Seabird Group, Regional Representative (1981-1985)

Department of the Interior, Endangered Species Subcommittee, Chair (1979-1983)

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