Science & Environment

Penguin Watch: Public asked to aid Antarctic research

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Media captionPrimary school student Will explains how he and his class are taking part in Antarctic research

British scientists who have set up a network of penguin-monitoring cameras in Antarctica are asking the public to help them carry out their research.

The Oxford University team is launching a new version of their ambitious project, PenguinWatch, on Thursday.

This is now the largest Antarctic citizen science venture in the world.

In "PenguinWatch 2.0", people will be able to see the results of their online efforts to monitor and conserve Antarctica's penguins colonies.

Lead researcher Dr Tom Hart is also encouraging school groups to adopt their own colony - following and monitoring its progress and "learning about Antarctica along the way."

"We've been really good at engaging people, but we've not been that good at feeding back," he told BBC News.

Every click counts

"The new part is that people will be able to see [the results of] what they're doing"

The team now has more than 75 cameras all over Antarctica and sub-Antarctic islands.

Image copyright Victoria Gill
Image caption Adelie penguins populations are declining on the Antarctic Peninsula

Their monitoring work - including a collaboration with a penguin census that has been operated by US organisation Oceanites since 1994 - has already shown a link between climate change and a decline in Adelie and Chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.

But with their large camera network in place, and each camera automatically taking a picture every hour throughout the year, the researchers now have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of images they are yet to analyse.

"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 Dr Hart.

Image copyright Victoria Gill
Image caption PenguinWatch is now the largest Antarctic citizen science project in the world

The team will combine this year-round view of the wildlife with climate, pollution and fisheries data - to work out what is driving declines in penguin populations, and how those declines might be reversed.

See more on this story on Thursday on the BBC News at Six, and the full report from the team in Antarctica on Our World: The Penguin Watchers, Saturday and Sunday at 2130 on the BBC News Channel

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