Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Wisdom of Crowds (or should that be colonies?)

Start of day four on Penguin Watch and I thought I’d say a bit more about this. It’s incredible how this is taking off – as of 9am, we’ve had over a quarter of a million classifications and the number of users is steadily climbing. Thanks so much for all the support so far!


Booth island – gentoo penguins breeding on the top of a hill. Notice that we’re also recording the temperature and sea ice in the background.

The whole point of this is that crowd-sourcing (using multiple non-experts) to process something usually gets the same result or better than few experts, plus it scales up much better. It’s really important to us that we’re trying to monitor and conserve penguins on a massive scale. Running out of hours in the day doesn’t seem an acceptable excuse. As we get large numbers of validated classifications, we’re also training computer algorithms to automate some of the work load as well. If we can get this working, we can use this to monitor, understand and protect seabirds on a global scale.

The good folks at Zooniverse and also the Visual Geometry lab have been amazing in helping us to achieve this. As you click on penguins, know that you are making a real difference to conservation worldwide.

Many, many thanks


Going global – setting up a timelapse camera on guillemots and kittiwakes in Svalbard in the Arctic. Similar to the Antarctic, but you carry a rifle to ward off polar bear.


The most remote so far-  we were trying  to work out if the International Space Station (330km vertical, unknown horizontal) or Argentine Belgrano base (400km horizontal) was our nearest neighbour.


Danco Island, with our ship (we hitchhike, we don’t own it, obviously) in the background.

Zooniverse goes live!

Today is the start of a really exciting project. The Zooniverse is a citizen science platform that allows volunteers to participate in real science. A team from Zooniverse has spent the last six months building a tool that take our own and other researchers timelapse imagery and displays it to interested members of the public. This allows volunteers to click on penguins and help us to extract data from imagery. It’s called Penguin Watch – check it out here!

zooniverse sreenshot v2

We hope that you will join us in sorting some of our 200,000 plus images of penguins into something that can make a difference to their conservation.

We’ll update you on the progress of this over the coming hours and days.

Happy clicking!