British Antarctic Survey Calls on Public to Count Emperor Penguins

The British Antarctic Survey has launched a citizen-science project, inviting the public to count emperor penguins in satellite images to aid research on climate change's impact. Participants will identify penguins in drone photos to train AI algorithms for future surveys.

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Quadri Adejumo
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British Antarctic Survey Calls on Public to Count Emperor Penguins

British Antarctic Survey Calls on Public to Count Emperor Penguins

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has launched an initiative inviting the public to become "penguin detectives" and help count emperor penguins in satellite images. The project, hosted on the online citizen-science platform Zooniverse, aims to engage volunteers in validating the accuracy of satellite images used to monitor penguin populations and aid vital research into the impact of climate change on these iconic Antarctic animals.

Participants in the "Polar Observatory" project are asked to identify adult and chick emperor penguins in 10-meter square drone photos taken over the Snow Hill colony in November 2023, which is home to around 6,000 penguins. Each image will be checked by at least 15 people to generate an accurate location for each penguin. The results will then be used to train artificial intelligence algorithms to automatically count penguins on future surveys.

Why this matters: The decline of emperor penguin populations has significant implications for the entire Antarctic ecosystem, and understanding the impact of climate change on these iconic animals can inform conservation efforts for other species. By engaging the public in this research, the British Antarctic Survey is not only advancing our knowledge of emperor penguins but also raising awareness about the urgent need for climate action.

The initiative comes at a critical time for emperor penguins, as record low levels of Antarctic sea ice are leading to breeding failures in several colonies. Between 2018 and 2022, 30% of the 62 known colonies were affected by partial or total sea ice loss. Antarctica has seen the four years with the lowest sea ice extents in the 45-year satellite record, with the two lowest years occurring in 2021/22 and 2022/23.

Current predictions suggest that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at current levels, the population of emperor penguins could fall by 99% by the end of the century, leading to virtual extinction. Peter Fretwell, Geographic Information Officer at BAS, emphasized the importance of public participation, stating, "This is a really exciting opportunity for aspiring conservationists, or anyone who just loves this iconic bird, to help us learn more about the future of the species. Not only will you be counting penguins in Antarctica, you'll also be helping researchers to accurately monitor penguin populations in the future – from space!" comments

The British Antarctic Survey's call for public participation in counting emperor penguins underscores the critical role citizen science can play in advancingrequires research. By harnessing the power of collective action, this initiative not only raises awareness about the plight of these majestic birds but also empowers individuals to contribute directly to the scientific process. As the future of emperor penguins hangs in the balance, every pair of eyes and every click counts in the race to understand and protect these remarkable inhabitants of the Antarctic.

Key Takeaways

  • The British Antarctic Survey is seeking "penguin detectives" to count emperor penguins in satellite images.
  • Volunteers will identify penguins in drone photos to aid research on climate change's impact on the species.
  • The project aims to train AI algorithms to automatically count penguins in future surveys.
  • Emperor penguin populations are declining due to climate change, with a predicted 99% fall by 2100.
  • Citizen science can play a critical role in advancing research and protecting these iconic animals.