Anyone can join the 'Penguin Watch' to aid Antarctic research

Anyone can join the 'Penguin Watch' to aid Antarctic research

Help Antarctic scientists one penguin photo at a time

You can aid penguin research by easily analysing penguin pictures taken from the network of penguin-monitoring cameras in Antarctica to help scientists figure out how climate change is affecting the popular flightless birds.

The british scientists who have set up the network are asking the public to help them carry out their research due to the large amount of pictures taken every hour by the 75 cameras installed near penguin territories in Antarctica and its surrounding islands. Each camera unit consists of a trail camera set to time-lapse mode mounted on a scaffold pole, anchored by a basket of rocks.

Camera overlooking Gentoo penguin colony on Petermann Island, Antarctica. Penguin Watch.

Their monitoring work - including a collaboration with a penguin census that has been operated by US organisation Oceanites since 1994 - has already shown a link between climate change and a decline in Adélie and Chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula. But with their large camera network in place, and each camera automatically taking a picture every hour throughout the year, the researchers now have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of images they are yet to analyse.

"We can't do this work on our own, and every penguin that people click on and count on the website - that's all information that tells us what's happening at each nest, and what's happening over time," said Dr Hart.

Penguin Watch is a citizen science website trying to understand the lives of penguins. People will be able to see the results of their online efforts to monitor and conserve Antarctica's penguins colonies.

The process is pretty simple, all you need to do is look at photos and identify adult penguins, chicks, and eggs in each image by clicking on the center of each one's visible area. Sometimes there are up to 30 penguins to mark, but if you think you miscounted the animals, don't worry! Quite a number of people will count each picture which means that the occasional mistake will not cause great problems. 

The Penguin Watch site shows you how to mark each animal with a very brief and effective tutorial.

Each photo requires just a few clicks to identify. You'll may find Gentoo, Chinstrap, Adélie, King or Rockhopper penguins, don't worry if you can't recognize them and their chicks, there's a photo guide at the bottom of the Penguin Watch site. Here is a map of the cameras locations:

If you have any doubts you can visit the Peguin Watch FAQ's to clear your mind, but believe me it is really easy to help, just do the best you can!

After classifying, you can discuss a specific image or the whole project with the science team and other volunteers. You can also share your favorite photos on facebook or twitter.

The team is also analysing climate, pollution, and fisheries research from the area, and will combine this with the results from PenguinWatch 2.0 to look for any patterns in what's affecting populations and how those declines might be reversed.

So let's get to look on those tons of penguin pictures in the name of science! Your help will be much valued by the scientsts and by the penguins ;)

Published on: April 2016