CROWD SOURCING PROGRAM WILL AID BIOLOGISTS IN THE FIGHT TO SAVE THE CALIFORNIA CONDOR
Researchers have more than 20 years of photo data showing the activities of North America’s largest bird, the endangered California condor. If the data were to be fully analyzed, it would allow biologists to determine how the condor’s behavioral habits correlate with their ability to survive in the wild. The data is so immense that researchers can’t analyze all of the data on their own, so they are utilizing Zooniverse’s web-based citizen project to allow interested citizens the chance to help with the analysis.
According to Alexandra Rose, citizen science coordinator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, a condor’s decisions on whom they feed and interact with are connected to the condor’s ability to survive. Researchers have over 175,000 automatically recorded images taken of condor groups as they feed on carcasses. Interested citizens can log in to www.condorwatch.org to identify the bird’s tag number and describe the behavior of the birds in these images. With this information recorded, biologists will be able to understand condor social networks to a greater extent, and may be able to see how the bird’s social interactions are connected to lead poisoning and other human intrusion issues. These established connections would allow conservationists to more effectively tailor their strategies for the successful recovery of the California condor.
“If we can easily differentiate the dominant birds from the subordinate birds, which are more susceptible to lead poisoning, we could possibly devise two different conservation efforts,” says Rose. “The first would be an early warning system, where we would not have to check on all the birds, just the ones that are indicated as being susceptible from the photos, and secondly, we could train the susceptible birds to avoid contaminated carcasses, just as they were trained to avoid power lines in the past.”