Feds Spent $300,000 on Virtual Reality Penguin Study

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How does $300,000 to study penguins through a virtual reality experience sound?

That is what the University of Wisconsin got from the National Science Foundation in 2020 for Arctic and Antarctic research.

The $300,000 grant provides for a project called “Becoming Joey: Promoting Informal Learning Through Embodiment in an Adélie Penguin Virtual Reality Experience.”


To better understand the polar regions, the virtual reality research is “to encourage and support basic research that is best conducted in or can only be conducted in the Arctic and Antarctic.”

The goal is to understand the natural phenomena in the Antarctic and Arctic regions and their role in global systems, according to the grant summary.

The funding helps pay for postdoctoral fellowships in polar regions research, as well as undergraduate student research, laboratory equipment and for research opportunities for women, minority, and disabled scientists and engineers.

The Adélie penguin is found only on the Antarctic continent and is the smallest of the species of penguins found there.

French Antarctic explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville discovered the birds in 1840 and named them after his wife, Adéle.

The small black-and-white tuxedoed little fellas may be cute but $300,000 for virtual reality? It's for the birds.

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