First let’s get this out of the way: Emperor penguin droppings are visible from space!
More amazingly, inventive researchers are using satellite images of the fecal stains to keep tabs on the notoriously elusive penguin colonies. In satellite images of the Antarctic ice, emperor penguin scat appears as “brown patches blazing against sheets of pure white,” Conservation reports. When researchers analyzed images of the entire Antartic coastline, they identified 38 emperor penguin colonies–10 of which were previously unknown.
“This sort of scatological spying is good news for penguins, a species vulnerable to rising global temperatures and melting ice,” Conservation observes. “Previously, scientists regularly monitored only a select few colonies because of difficulties gaining ground access. With the ability to map out penguin movements from afar, scientists will now be able to better track and hopefully conserve this iconic bird.”