I've already counted over 100 real penguins today, care to join me?

Some were quite difficult to spot, camouflaged against the grit and snow. Others were abundant, hoards upon hoards of adult penguins with their characteristically brown chicks standing close by.

Unfortunately I'm not inviting you on a trip to Antarctica, but whatever the weather and wherever you are, you too can count penguins today.

They may not be lurking outside your windows and you certainly you won't feel the cold air on your face or smell the fresh sea-breeze. But, with a bit of imagination you can at least get a virtual feel of the icy action and be visually transported to Antarctica.

Remote camera systems currently monitor over 30 penguin colonies around the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula. There are now 50 cameras capturing the lives of five different species: Adelie, chinstrap, gentoo, rockhopper and king penguins.

A team at the University of Oxford, UK use these images to analyse different stages of their breeding cycle and to discover exactly what they get up to in the cold winter months. They aim to study their every move, where they breed and just how far they travel.

The project, called Penguin Watch, generates hundreds of thousands of photos and classifying these would take a small team of researchers several years. That's where you, the public, come into play. 

It's an entertaining way to spend some time but while counting them you'll be contributing to real scientific data. It's a citizen science project but with a serious goal. Understanding exactly how the penguins live day-to-day will give the researchers insights into how they respond to an increasingly volatile climate.

On each picture your task is to tag the number you see and classify them into chicks, adults or a combination. You'll join almost 9,000 other amateur penguin watchers in a project run by Zooniverse, one of their many interactive projects, others involve studying explosions on the sun or finding new planets around distant stars.

Many penguin species are highly dependent on sea ice. Adelie penguins for example live on it and emperor penguins breed on it. Climate scientists predict that sea ice will continue to decrease posing a serious threat to their livelihoods.

Their main food source, krill, has also reduced which has been highlighted as another key factor for declining numbers of Adelie and chinstrap penguins over the last 30 years. 

Adelies seem to be thriving on the Eastern parts of Antarctica but declining on the peninsula, explains Caitlin Black from the University of Oxford, and one of the team members involved with the project. It's differences such as this that the researchers want to understand. 

Eventually the goal will be to automate the process so that computers can classify the penguins almost instantaneously using a specially developed algorithm.

For this to become a reality as many images as possible need to be analysed by human eyes first. There's still no substitute quite like them.

That's why right now, in the quiet of the Antarctic, members of the Penguin Watch team are busy with the next stage of their research, maintaining cameras and adding new ones so there will be ever more images for us to classify. 

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