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Seeking bird, seal and sea lion-loving volunteers

Northern elephant seals and California sea lions account for the vast majority of marine mammals on Año Nuevo Island Reserve. Image credit: Sarah Wood.

If you love birds, seals or sea lions — or simply have time to spare for a good cause — consider volunteering with the Año Nuevo Island animal count project.

In the past, scientists have manually monitored the populations of birds, seals and sea lions at Año Nuevo Island Reserve, which is part of the UC Natural Reserve System. Though many researchers personally traveled to the island, they found that conducting an accurate census once they arrived was nearly impossible. The island typically has around 3,000 active animals at any given time.

This year, with the help of UC Santa Cruz undergraduate Sarah Wood, they’ve introduced a 21st-century solution: Drones and help from “citizen scientists” — AKA volunteers. Scientists have collected a huge database of more than 50,000 drone photographs. Since there are so many images, they’re requesting help from volunteers to identify the content. As a citizen scientist, you’ll view small sections of the photographs to determine whether animals appear in them, and if so, which.

If you’re interested in helping out, it’s easy to get started. Visit the project website, determine which type of animals you’d like to track (seals and sea lions or birds), view the easy-to-understand instructions and begin clicking away!

It’s an easy way to get involved in one of UC’s remarkable research projects from the comfort of your own couch, during your commute or in other leisure time.

Read more from the Natural Reserve System.

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