Satellites floating in space are revolutionary tools for studying animals on Earth. Biologists were able to track bird migration, monitor whale populations, and study penguin droppings directly from their computers. Now a team of conservationists want to search for walruses from space, but they will need the help of volunteer “walrus detectives” to do so, Sharon Pruitt-Young reports for NPR.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the British Antarctic Survey hope to recruit half a million eagle-eyed volunteers to help sift satellite imagery and count walruses as part of a new project to research titled “Walrus from Space”. The aim is to learn how climate change will impact populations of Atlantic walruses and Laptev Sea walruses in Russia, reports Adela Suliman for the Washington post.
“Assessing walrus populations by traditional methods is very difficult because they live in extremely remote areas, spend a lot of their time on the pack ice and move around a lot,” says Hannah Cubaynes, research associate at the British Antarctic Survey, in a press release. from WWF. “Satellite images can solve this problem because they can study large swathes of coastline.”
“However, doing this for all the Atlantic and Laptev walruses will require huge amounts of images, too much for a single scientist or a small team, so we need the help of thousands of citizen scientists for us. help learn more about this iconic animal, âshe said. said.
Aspiring ‘walrus detectives’ will watch a tutorial and take a quiz to test their walrus counting and identification skills. Then, they’ll look at high-resolution satellite photos of the large, fleshy mammals from their own computers, according to NPR.
The data they report will provide insight into how climate change is affecting this iconic Arctic species. The WWF says that 13% of the summer sea ice in the Arctic disappears every decade. The loss of sea ice is particularly damaging for Atlantic walruses, which depend on sea ice to rest and give birth to their young, the To post reports.
Among other effects, the melting sea ice caused by climate change is forcing walruses to congregate on land rather than on ice. Their movements between ocean and land become longer and more difficult, forcing them to expend more precious energy on their back and forth trips. Additionally, beaches quickly become overcrowded as herds of hundreds or thousands of walruses congregate, according to WWF. Overcrowding can also lead to jostling, as walruses are particularly finicky animals. When these behemoths are frightened and charge towards the water, others, especially young calves, may be trampled on in panic.
“The walrus is an iconic species of great cultural significance to arctic people, but climate change is melting their icy home,” Rod Downie, WWF chief polar adviser, said in the press release. âIt’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a climate and natural emergency, but this project empowers individuals to take action to understand a species threatened by the climate crisis, and help save their future.