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Walrus from space

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Walrus are under threat from a warming climate. Now you can help. Become a Walrus Detective!

Walrus from Space
Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) hanging out in shallow water

What is Walrus from Space?

  • Walrus are facing the reality of the climate crisis and we need to know more about how they are affected.
     
  • WWF and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are asking the public to become ‘walrus detectives’ and help contribute to conservation science by spending as little as thirty minutes searching for walrus in thousands of satellite images taken from space.
     
  • The project aims to carry out a census of Atlantic and Laptev walrus populations over five years, which will help scientists to spot changes over time.

 

Phases
A herd of walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) on an ice floe. Svalbard, Norway.

Climate change and walrus

  • The climate crisis is having a significant impact on the Arctic, with this polar region warming almost three times faster than the global average.
     
  • Walrus rely on sea ice, but the warming world is melting the ice from beneath them.
     
  • Resting on land (as opposed to sea ice) may force walrus to swim further and expend more energy to reach their food (which is also being impacted by the climate crisis) and reduces the region that they can search. 
     
  • The Arctic Ocean is becoming more acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide. This makes it difficult for animals like bivalve molluscs (clams), sea snails and crabs – the main prey of walrus – to build their shells. 
     
  • Walrus can also be disturbed by shipping traffic and industrial development as the Arctic becomes more accessible to such activities when sea ice is lost.
     
  • As the Arctic is a vast and changing place we simply don’t know enough yet about how many walrus there are, the trends in their population and how the climate crisis is affecting them.
     
A herd of Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) in Foxe Basin, Nunavut, Canada

How to get involved

  • We want to do our part in finding out how quickly and how seriously the climate crisis is affecting walrus populations and we need your help.
     
  • You can help search for walrus in the thousands of images that will be gathered by satellites over five years.
     
  • All you need is access to a computer or tablet and an internet connection to take part.
     
  • The minimum recommended age for participating in the activity without adult supervision is 10 years old. All participants under the age of 13 must have parental consent to use the platform. 
     
  • Create an account and then take a short tutorial on how to be a walrus detective. You will be able to test your walrus identifying skills and then get searching through the satellite imagery.
     
  • Look out for some achievement milestones along the way!
     
Time and Devices

More about the project

  • In cooperation with scientists across the Arctic we will help to identify how Atlantic and Laptev walrus populations change over time in comparison to their environment, spanning thousands of miles across Russia, Greenland, Norway and Canada.
     
  • Satellites in space are continuously capturing images of Earth. Using these high-resolution images, we will be able to identify, count and later estimate how many Atlantic and Laptev walrus there are at certain locations.
     
  • Satellites do not disturb walrus and we can cover vast areas at once, many of which would normally be difficult and time-consuming to access.
     
  • Our collective actions add up to something powerful, and we want to involve half a million people over the next 4 years to help review the images collected every year and search for walrus.
     
  • The information gathered with the help of the public for this project, coupled with the knowledge of other research groups and local and Indigenous communities of the Arctic, will be crucial to our conservation efforts.
     
  • If you have a question about walrus, their habitat or the Walrus From Space project, Contact Us.

     

 

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