Spencer Unthank, Highly Commended at our 2017 Best Friend Awards, joined the Penguin Study Group in November 1974 and has been President since 2006. The group meets every four weeks and has done so since 1968.
It began recording data about the Little Penguin before the establishment of the Phillip Island Nature Parks and worked tirelessly to get appropriate management of the population in the face of declining numbers. This long-term data is used by researchers today and can contribute to understanding the effects of climate change on Little Penguins.
As leader of the team monitoring and maintaining the original study site, Spencer shares his extensive knowledge of the Little Penguin and trains new volunteers in handling the birds and recording data.
He has established a strong partnership with the Research Department of the Phillip Island Nature Parks and recently worked with them to introduce Volunteer Role Descriptions. The Research Department recognises the work Spencer and the group have done for the conservation of the species.
Every month, Spencer contributes a Little Penguin update to the Victorian Ornithological Research Group. He is always willing to provide input into scientific publications when requested. He often assists students to gain hands-on experience for their environmental science or animal veterinary studies.
Spencer is described by members of the group as a quietly-spoken, humble, unassuming man. His dedication over 43 years to researching Little Penguins, his vast store of knowledge and the support and encouragement he offers to volunteers are an inspiration to the people he leads.
Together with other members of the group, Spencer is looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Penguin Study Group next year.