Become a Walrus Detective

Help scientists do a walrus survey.

Nov 2, 2021
Become a Walrus Detective | Help scientists do a walrus survey.

Being a detective doesn’t mean you have to act like Sherlock Holmes or sneak around in dark alleys with a camera. It could be as simple as scouring satellite photos looking for elusive walruses as part of a worldwide census.

The “Walrus from Space” survey is being conducted by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and according to a BAS press release, it is hoped that half a million people worldwide will join the hunt. They have partnered with a space tech company - Maxar Technologies – to provide the photos for the project that is expected to take four years to complete.

The project involves counting the Atlantic and Laptev walrus to learn where they live in a warming world where their Arctic home on the ice is shrinking by 13 percent a year. Walruses need sea ice to rest, eat, and breed. The project is necessary to better understand these majestic creatures of the sea so they can be protected in the future.

How to search for walrus
Using satellite photos will give far more coverage than conventional methods on the 25,000 km coastlines that need to be studied and this method  will also ensure that the marine mammals are not disturbed.

“Assessing walrus populations by traditional methods is very difficult as they live in extremely remote areas, spend much of their time on the sea ice and move around a lot, Satellite images can solve this problem as they can survey huge tracts of coastline to assess where walrus are and help us count the ones that we find,” Hannah Cubaynes, wildlife from space research associate at BAS said in the press release.

“However, doing that for all the Atlantic and Laptev walruses will take huge amounts of imagery, much too much for a single scientist or small team, so we need help from thousands of citizen scientists to help us learn more about this iconic animal.”

At this time, scientists aren’t sure how many walruses there are – especially along the coastline of Russia’s remote and inaccessible Laptev sea – so the photos are the only method in this remote region, according to Fast Company.

How to get involved
Cub Scouts from across the UK became walrus spotters to test the platform before it was introduced to the general public according to the press release. One 9-year-old scout, Imogen Scullard, said: “I love learning about the planet and how it works. We need to protect it from climate change. 

“We are helping the planet by doing the walrus count with space satellites, which is really cool. It was a hard thing to do but we stuck at it, Imogen said.” You can too.

Signing up to be a walrus detective is easy, just click here to join. You will be asked to open an account – children can too with permission – and complete a training module. How much time you want to put in is up to you. Just think of it as searching for Waldo; complete with whiskers and tusks.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.