If you find yourself spending hours looking at penguin images online, you just might be the volunteer these scientists are looking for. A team from Oxford University is looking for volunteers who want to look at penguin pictures to help them in their research.
Called "Penguin Watch 2.0," their project aims to study the lives of penguins by enlisting volunteers to mark images of penguins taken from Antarctica.
At the website, participants are shown pictures of penguins and asked to mark adult penguins, chicks, and eggs. Be mindful, though, as images may not show the whole penguin. Sometimes only a tail or chest is visible.
Volunteers are also asked to take note of other animals that are often seen near the penguins, so observations can be part of the analysis as well.
Interactions with other animals are crucial for the research as it provides insight on penguins' behavior and existence.
In 2006, a group of scientists captured an image of a fur seal forcing itself on a king penguin. Although they are yet to understand the exact nature of the sexual encounter, studies such as Penguin Watch could shed light on the matter.
Results of the participants' online efforts will be shown online to efficiently monitor and conserve the penguin colonies in Antarctica. The website also now allows participants to discuss a particular penguin with other volunteers and the science team.
Lead researcher Dr. Tom Hart said it would greatly benefit the study and the penguins if school groups would volunteer and adopt a colony of their own to monitor and follow up on its progress while learning about Antarctica, as well.
The team has an ongoing study in partnership with Oceanites since 1994, but because of high volume of images they receive every hour, monitoring becomes difficult. At present, the research team has 75 cameras in place around Antarctica and Sub-Antarctic Islands.
"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 Hart.
Would you like to take part in the largest Antarctic citizen study? Let us know in the comments below.