Scientists need your help counting walruses from space

Science

Scientists are asking for the public’s help counting walruses in satellite photos. (Photo: Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – The World Wildlife Fund and the British Antarctic Survey are conducting a walrus census – and they need your help.

The organizations are hoping you (and thousands of other people) will look at satellite images of walruses in their Arctic habitat and count how many you see. The tally of Atlantic and Laptev walruses will give scientists a better idea of how the populations are coping with climate change and melting sea ice.

“Assessing walrus populations by traditional methods is very difficult as they live in extremely remote areas, spend much of their time on the sea ice and move around a lot. Satellite images can solve this problem,” said Hannah Cubaynes, research associate at British Antarctic Survey, in a press release. “However, doing that for all the Atlantic and Laptev walrus will take huge amounts of imagery, too much for a single scientist or small team.”

That’s where you can help out. WWF and BAS are hoping a whopping 500,000 people will join the effort.

Scientists are concerned about the Arctic and Laptev walruses, the WWF said, because they use sea ice to rest and have babies. As the ice disappears, they’re worried walruses will have fewer places to rest, and will have to burn more energy looking for food that is also increasingly rare.

They may also be forced onto land with less sea ice around. “Overcrowded beaches can have fatal consequences; walrus are easily frightened, and when spooked they stampede towards the water, trampling one another in their panic,” the WWF said.

Anyone interested in helping can learn more and register to participate here. All you need is a computer or tablet and internet access. Kids can participate with help and/or permission from parents.

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