Part memoir, partly the research of a field biologist, Professor Penguin could be called 'How Penguins Shaped My Life'. Based on journals kept during Davis's years of working with penguins in the wild, the story takes readers to remote locations: Antarctica, the Galapagos, the deserts of Chile and Peru, the Falkland Islands, the wild coasts of Argentina and South Africa, and New Zealand.
Davis, a world authority on penguins, reveals that these box-office favourites are not the cute 'mate for life' animals we've been led to believe. He also reveals that penguins are a lot like humans – sometimes disturbingly so – when it comes to their basic needs: sex, food, shelter, marriage, family and travel.
Over the years that Davis studies penguins, he realises that they are far more complex and nuanced than he imagines at his first encounter. 'They really don't deserve to be seen as so black and white.' He expertly marries scientific knowledge with his own anecdotes – told with humour, hard-earned knowledge and insight. He also includes stories about those who have helped advance our knowledge of penguins – other 'Professor Penguins'.
Implicit throughout is Davis's philosophy – the more we learn about the natural world, and specifically penguins, the more we learn about ourselves. And he asks: Is the isolation of Antarctica sufficient to protect penguins from us?
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Lloyd Spencer Davis fits easily into the category of creative non-fiction writing. He received the PEN (NZ) Best First Book Award for Non-fiction for Penguin: A Season in the Life of the Adelie Penguin, the story of Antarctica as seen through the eyes of a penguin. His next book, The Plight of the Penguin, won Book of the Year at the 2002 NZ Post Children's Book Awards, as well as winning the non-fiction category at the same awards. He received a CLL Writer's Award – New Zealand's most significant award for the support of nonfiction – for Looking for Darwin, which also won the Runner's Up Award as the New Zealand Travel Book of the Year, 2008.
Other publications include Smithsonian Q&A Penguins, commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution, and Penguins of New Zealand (with photographs by Rod Morris). With Claudia Babirat he wrote the textbook The Business of Documentary Filmmaking. In addition, Lloyd is a director and scriptwriter of natural history documentaries – his films having won 12 international awards to date. Through his business Adelie Productions (www.adelie.biz), he has been writing, producing and directing documentaries for over 20 years. His films have won 12 international awards, including the ABU Prize of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, Hong Kong and the Prix Special du Jury, Festival de L'Oiseau, Abbeville, France.
Film credits include Eating like a Gannet, Under Galapagos, Meet the Real Penguins and, with Wiebke Finkler, a documentary on Shona Dunlop MacTavish, Wind Dancer. He went to Victoria University of Wellington and Canterbury University before gaining a PhD at the University of Alberta in Canada, as Commonwealth Scholar. He also writes essays for magazines including Natural History and newspapers like the Star Sunday Times. He currently holds the Stuart Chair in Science Communication at the University of Otago where, among other things, he teaches creative nonfiction writing. He has been recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, an Anzac Fellowship and a Prince and Princess of Wales Science Award.