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Spying on penguins in Antarctica

Penguin Watch is a programme designed to fill important data gaps in Antarctica so that we understand and mitigate the threats to them.

Penguin close-up
Close up of an Emperor penguin.

'Most penguin colonies are so remote and the environment is so hostile the most practical way to study them is to leave something recording for us. Between the ourselves and collaborators, we have a network of over 150 automated cameras,' said Dr Tom Hart of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, who leads the Penguin Watch project. 'These cameras are now giving us hundreds of thousands of images of penguins throughout the year. Because of the enormous amount of data available, we use a mixture of citizen science and AI to count birds accurately and to follow the success or failure of nests around the Southern Ocean.'

By tagging the adults, chicks, and eggs in remote camera images, thousands of Penguin Watch volunteers help scientists to gather information about penguin behaviour and breeding success, as well as teaching a computer how to count and identify individuals of different species.

Since the start of this project in 2009, it has collected well over a million images and has had over 2 million people engage with citizen science to help us process them.

Penguin Watch is run with collaborators around the world including the Zooniverse, Oceanites, Stony Brook, Louisiana State University, The Australian Antarctic Division, The British Antarctic Survey, and the Zoological Society of London, to name a few.


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