Scientists Need Your Help Looking at Pictures of Penguins

Christopher Michel via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Christopher Michel via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 / Christopher Michel via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Sometimes in life, you have to make sacrifices. You have to do the noble thing, even if it’s painful. We know that it’s a real chore to watch penguin cams; to see the adorable, squat little weirdos trundling across the ice and tending to their fluffy chicks. But Antarctic scientists need our help, and it’s time for all of us to step up.

Here’s the situation. Climate change has put Antarctica’s penguins in danger. Their habitats are shifting, and food is becoming more difficult to find. But we can’t help them unless we understand them, and penguins don’t exactly take kindly to being followed around by well-meaning scientists.

"Just be cool, Tom. Waddle casual." Image credit: Hannes Grobe via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5

So researchers set up cameras near penguin territories across Antarctica and some of its islands. There are currently more than 75 cameras in place, snapping hourly pictures of the penguins’ daily lives like very dedicated private investigators. But 24 images a day, seven days a week from 75 cameras yields an awful lot of photos—more than the researchers can review themselves. 

Here’s where you come in. PenguinWatch 2.0 is looking for selfless volunteers to watch and identify adult penguins, chicks, and eggs at each camera site. The process itself is simple, requiring just a few clicks for each photo, and users can then visit the project’s “Talk” page to chat about the penguins with other volunteers. 

"We can't do this work on our own,” lead researcher Tom Hart told the BBC, “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.”

The accumulated clicks will tell researchers where penguins are, what they’re doing, and what’s hurting them—all information that can inform conservation efforts in the future.

What are you waiting for? Go stare at some penguins!

[h/t BBC