Day 181 – Observing Penguins

Over the past few weeks, I have done a couple of online volunteering projects that I’ve found through a great website called Zooniverse. I have transcribed African American soldiers records from the civil war, proofread books, and transcribed anti-slavery letters from 1870: there’s quite a diverse selection of projects. Today I decided to support a different project, dedicated to observing my favourite animals: penguins.

I find penguins ridiculously entertaining, they appear to have such unique personalities, it’s quite easy to watch them and create stories about what they’re doing. I also identify with penguins so much as they’re far more graceful and at home in the water than they ever are on land. I’m an absolute water baby: I could happily swim all day, and have a need to dip my toe in any body of water I see, but on land I am as graceful as, well, a penguin. So it’s fair to say this project appealed to my interests.

The aim of the project is to observe penguin’s colonies and nests from webcams placed around the world, and log how many penguins there are, how many chicks and eggs there are, and lastly, if there are any other animals close-by. This will provide researchers with data on the environment from successful and unsuccessful colonies, how much of an impact predators have on these colonies, and any changes in the timing of breeding. This data has already aided researchers at the University of Oxford and is part of a huge ongoing project to examine the penguin population, and the environmental factors that may impact it.

The observation task was very simple. I would be given a screenshot from a webcam and would have to flag how many adult penguins there were, chicks, eggs, and any other animals. It was very quick and easy to do, and I rattled through quite a lot in a short period.

What’s going on here?!

It was fun and interesting at first to see the ways the penguins were captured on camera, but it soon became quite tedious. The action became quite a mindless activity, clicking on each black and white shape with one of the tags. I stuck with it for a while longer than I wanted to, purely because I knew it would help the researchers, but unlike my other Zooniverse picks, I don’t think I’ll be returning to do the Penguin Watch again.

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