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Posted on 31/03/2020 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

SealSpotter Challenge helps the seals and keeps folks entertained at home

Phillip Island Nature Parks’ popular annual global SealSpotter Challenge has been brought forward to provide much-needed entertainment for people who are currently spending a lot of time at home, as well as to contribute to vital seal research.

SealSpotter harnesses the drone technology currently being used by Phillip Island Nature Parks to monitor several colonies of Australian fur seals on Victoria’s offshore islands.

The high-resolution images captured during the pupping season of December 2019 are uploaded to the SealSpotter portal, ready for Citizen Scientists to start counting at 9am on April 2.

“Participants will have two weeks to access the SealSpotter web portal during the Challenge, and count as many seals and seal pups as they can” says Dr Rebecca McIntosh, Research Scientist with Phillip Island Nature Parks.

“Some of Victoria’s fur seal colonies can number in the tens of thousands, so the contribution made by citizen scientists counting the various populations accurately and efficiently through SealSpotter is really valuable to us.”

The SealSpotter Challenge was launched on World Oceans Day last year, and Nature Parks’ researchers were thrilled with the results and the level of engagement by people from 25 countries and all continents of the world – even Antarctica.

Citizen Scientists from around the world managed to view and label over 16,559 images and classify over 113,039 seals. The six top collaborators each counted between 1,000 - 2,300 images, which is an amazing effort.

“We thought we’d bring the SealSpotter Challenge forward this year to give all those people having to spend time at home at the moment, a fun and meaningful activity that is suitable for all ages.”

The SealSpotter portal was developed by Phillip Island Nature Parks’ researchers thanks to generous funding from the Penguin Foundation. We hope that this research project can bring connectedness and purpose during this time when many are socially isolated or unwell.


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