04 November 2016

Citizen scientists can now lend a hand in penguin conservation

Adelie penguin nesting on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Photo credit: Heather Lynch, Stony Brook University
USA – Ordinary citizens now have the opportunity to be penguin detectives and help scientists find Antarctica's undiscovered penguin colonies after the launch of a website that tracks Antarctic penguin populations.

The interactive and user-friendly tool was developed by Heather J. Lynch, PhD, an Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, and colleagues. It is the first of its kind, and provides a lens into the world of scientists who analyse penguin living patterns, which are a strong indicator of climate change effects.

Dr Lynch and Mathew R. Schwaller, PhD, at NASA Goddard teamed up with Oceanites, Inc. to develop the Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics (MAPPPD): www.penguinmap.com.

While scientists and policy makers use the website to make conservation decisions about the Antarctic environment, the open access tool allows anyone to query all publicly available penguin census data. MAPPD currently hosts data for four penguin species that breed on the Antarctic continent  – Adelie, chinstrap, emperor and gentoo – with more species to come.

“The launch of this website has the potential to greatly improve management and collaboration around the Antarctic,” said Dr Lynch.

“MAPPPD contains data for approximately 1,300 historical and current surveys in nearly 300 sites around the Antarctic continent. These data come primarily from published literature, though population estimates based on satellite imagery are also used by researchers and represents a growing component of MAPPPD’s utility.”

Dr Lynch explained that there are different ways that researchers and citizen scientists with data can contribute to MAPPPD. Also, MAPPPD’s use as a data hub for Antarctic penguin biologists will grow as new datasets are uncovered and can be integrated into population models that both describe past trends and may be used to predict future trends.

The easy-to-use interface includes a number of informative outputs that are immediately available for Environmental Impact Assessments or scientific reports. The website also provides links to relevant publications, and information about how users can contribute their own data.

For MAPPPD partner and end user, Oceanites, Inc., the website is a new tool for its Antarctic inventory project.

“MAPPPD will immediately assist a wide range of Antarctic stakeholders, from other researchers and governments to NGOs and the public at large,” said Oceanites Founder and President Ron Naveen.

Sources
Citizen scientists can now lend a hand in penguin conservation [press release], 25 October 2016, Stony Brook University
Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics (MAPPPD)

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