Advertisement.

Environment

Got a minute? Help count walruses from space


First, citizen scientists were called on to help identify new whooping crane nests in the NWT. Now, your help is needed to conduct a walrus census across the Arctic.

The British Antarctic Survey and World Wildlife Fund are hoping half a million people will participate in the Walrus from Space research project, dividing and conquering to count the animals in thousands of images over the next five years.

Populations being studied include the Atlantic walrus, which lives in coastal areas from northeastern Canada to Greenland, and the walrus from the Laptev Sea in northern Russia.

Advertisement.

Volunteers will study satellite images showing 25,000 square kilometres of Arctic coastline and count the walruses they see. Scientists say this data will help them understand how the populations are doing without disturbing the animals.

Rod Downie, chief polar advisor at the World Wildlife Fund, called walruses “an iconic species of great cultural significance to the people of the Arctic” now under threat from climate change.

Melting sea ice, increased shipping traffic, and industrial development are all expected to affect the walrus population. 

“This project enables individuals to take action to understand a species threatened by the climate crisis, and to help to safeguard their future,” Downie said.

A news release announcing the Walrus from Space project said diminishing sea ice means walruses are being pushed onto land, where overcrowded beaches can see spooked walruses trample one another when disturbed.

Advertisement.

The animals may also be swimming farther for food, project staff said, while that food itself is become more scarce through warming and acidification of the ocean.

Advertisement.