What is CondorWatch?
This new program, CondorWatch (www.condorwatch.org), asks volunteers to look at photos of condors taken by motion-activated cameras at sites where condors are fed as part of regular management activities. By identifying the tag number of each condor and describing the behavior of birds, citizen scientists will help researchers understand condor social networks and other factors that may be related to lead poisoning or other problems. Ultimately, the project will improve the ability of condor biologists to identify birds that are at high risk for poisonings and develop better strategies for ensuring the species' successful recovery in the wild.
Why participate in CondorWatch?
The California condor – North America’s largest bird -- is a classic conservation success story. This endangered species was reduced to only 22 individuals in the 1980s but, as a result of the most expensive recovery effort ever undertaken in the USA, now numbers over 400 birds. However, the population of these giant vultures is still threatened by lead poisoning and other human-caused problems. Through the user-generated data on how the condors interact, researchers are able to learn about the social networks of these birds and how these relationships may affect animals predisposition to certain risks.
How do you participate in CondorWatch?
Head to CondorWatch – helping is simple! Users will be provided with an image, captured by the motion-activated cameras. Simply click on an animal or bird and answer simple identifying questions about that individual, then submit! CondorWatch has over 175,000 photographs which can provide valuable information to save these endangered birds.
But I don’t know anything about birds!
CondorWatch has a helpful Field Guide, which helps users to learn the characteristics of the birds and other animals that are commonly seen in the motion-activated camera photographs.
Launched on April 15, CondorWatch is part of Zooniverse, a collection of web-based citizen science projects that use the efforts of volunteers to help researchers in multiple fields deal with the flood of data that can, like the condor photos, defy traditional analysis approaches. Other researchers involved in CondorWatch include Donald Smith and Myra Finkelstein of UC Santa Cruz; Vickie Bakker at Montana State University; Carolyn Kurle at UC San Diego; Daizaburo Shizuka at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and Holly Copeland at the Nature Conservancy in Lander, Wyoming. The project is conducted in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pinnacles National Park, Ventana Wildlife Society, Santa Barbara Zoo, and the Nature Conservancy.