Weddell seals are one of Antarctica's iconic species and an important player in the Southern Ocean's ecosystem. Scientists, led by a researcher at the University of Minnesota, are looking to the public for help in getting a first-ever count of their population. The citizen science project Satellites Over Seals (SOS) aims to enlist people all over the world in counting the seals by viewing high-resolution satellite images online. Researchers believe the count will be a step toward helping them learn how fishing in the Ross Sea is affecting the seals and the entire ecosystem.
"We couldn't do this without help from citizen scientists," says Michelle LaRue (Ph.D. '14), a research ecologist in the University of Minnesota's Department of Earth Sciences and lead researcher. SOS is funded by the National Science Foundation and is a joint effort between the University of Minnesota, University of Colorado at Boulder, H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants, Point Blue Conservation Science, and DigitalGlobe. The count is made possible through the crowdsourcing website Tomnod.
To start counting seals, visit Tomnod.com. Photo by Michelle LaRue