Below is a brief overview of some of the exciting citizen science projects already underway in the polar tourism industry. Whether you are just getting started and interested in trailing a project, or are ready to manage your own robust citizen science initiative, we can tailor a program to suit your needs. 

To learn more about these projects and others currently being developed, get in touch


Cloud Observations (NASA)

Clouds affect how much sunlight is being absorbed by the earth and how much heat is escaping back into space. By observing and recording cloud cover timed to NASA satellite fly-overs, we can help scientists understand how surface and air temperature are affected by cloud cover, and how clouds will respond to a changing climate.

Scientific Partner

NASA GLOBE Observer

equipment required

Smartphone with free GLOBE Observer app (iPhone & Android) Use referral code: polartourism

training

Basic online training in observation protocols and cloud types, and familiarization with GLOBE Observer app

resources required

One dedicated staff member. Pre-season or on turnaround days, project leader will need to download satellite flyover times to correspond to your tentative itinerary. Alternatively, this information can be emailed to you by The Polar Collective team. Observations require 10-15 minutes 1-2 times per day on sea days, or more or less depending on the availability of your team and schedule. All observations are stored offline in the app and uploaded quickly when on wifi. 

the takeaway

This project does not require an expertise in atmospherics and is equally valuable in the Arctic as in the Antarctic. It's a great way to get your guests out on deck during sea days. 


Seabird Surveys (Antarctic Site Inventory)

By conducting bird surveys while at sea or on shore, we can help scientists begin to understand meso-scale (within tens of kilometers) seabird distribution patterns and habitat usage in the Southern Ocean.

scientific partners

Stony Brook University and eBird

equipment required

Ability to print bird survey checklists, scan and email the completed surveys to Stony Brook University

training

An experienced ornithologist should lead the surveys to ensure accuracy counting and species identifications

resources required

One ornithologist to lead the surveys and an additional staff member to assist. Surveys conducted in randomly chosen 15-60 minute periods during sea days in the Southern Ocean. At least one survey per sea day is preferable. At the end of the season or intermittently on turnaround days, scan and email completed surveys to Stony Brook University.

the takeaway

Seabird surveys are a guest-favorite as it's a chance to work in a small group with the ornithologist. Similar to GLOBE Observer, seabird surveys are a great way to get your guests out on deck with their binoculars and identifying and recording species can easily be used as an educational tool. 


Secchi Disk - The Global Seafarer Study of Marine Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton is at the base of the marine food chain. Their distribution, composition and abundance are altering as the oceans are affected by climate change. The Secchi Depth – defined as the depth when the Secchi Disk disappears from sight when lowered vertically into the seawater from a stationary boat - measures the clarity of sea water, which is influenced by the amount of phytoplankton in the water column.

scientific partner

The Secchi Disk Foundation

equipment required

A self-made Secchi Disk and a smartphone with GPS capability, and the Secchi app (iPhone and Android)

resources required

One dedicated staff member to lower the Secchi Disk, or assist guests in lowering the disk over the side of a stationary Zodiac and measure the Secchi Depth. One lowering takes approx. 5 minutes. Data is entered and stored offline in the Secchi app and can be uploaded when on wifi.

the takeaway

While this project has worked well when paired with phytoplankton sampling, it can easily succeed on its own as part of a "Citizen Science Zodiac Cruise" and offers guests a hands-on way to learn about the marine food chain. 


Happywhale

Our expedition vessels can assist in tracking individual whales throughout our world’s oceans. By harnessing the power of millions of whale watching enthusiasts, Happywhale is expanding our scientific knowledge of their behavior and distribution. Simply encourage guides, guests and crew to set their cameras to local time, capture photos of whale sightings and upload to happywhale.com.

 

scientific partners

Cascadia Research Collective & Allied Whale

equipment required

Camera and internet connection to upload images

resources required

One staff member required to introduce Happywhale project and image guidelines to guests and to remind guests following whale encounters. Staff, crew and guests are encouraged to create a personal Happywhale account and with a strong Internet connection, to upload high-res photos (as many as possible) to happywhale.com and include the name of the vessel the whale was viewed from.

the takeaway

An easy win for any operator wishing to participate in citizen science and provides an easy way for guests to subscribe to "follow" the whales sighted during their cruise. This open-source database is experiencing season-on-season growth and we're thrilled to support it. 


Sea Ice Observations

This mostly Arctic-based project helps to understand and track the progression of the melt of sea ice in summer. We collect observations of the age, type and topography of sea ice and submit it to the open source Ice Watch ASSIST Data Network.

scientific partners

International Arctic Research Center's Ice Watch, Thayer School of Engineering, Norwegian Ice Service

equipment required

ASSIST (Arctic Shipborne Sea Ice Standardization Tool) software

training

Significant training with experts in sea ice identification and observation protocols is required, as is familiarization with the ASSIST software

resources required

2 dedicated staff members. Quite extensive preparation is required for studying and training in sea ice identification, ideally months prior to a season start. The sea ice observations are approximately 30 minutes each and timed to flyovers of the NPP, AQUA and TERRA satellites, as many as is possible when navigating through sea ice. Data is uploaded to Ice Watch's ASSIST data network and associated photos/video are delivered to the supervising Ice Watch advisor. We would be happy to talk you through exactly what is required for this ambitious but highly valuable project. 

the takeaway

A complex project that requires extensive training pre-season and is best suited to icebreaker cruises. 


OTHER RECOMMENDED PROJECTS

Sea Leopard Project

The Sea Leopard Project is a non-profit study aimed at a better understanding of the behavior, ecology, and population dynamics of Leopard seals on the Antarctic Peninsula in order to promote their conservation and safe human-seal interactions. Photos of the left side of the face should be submitted to the Happywhale database, while if a unique leopard seal behavior is viewed, a description of the encounter and any related video should be provided to the Sea Leopard Project with the provided sightings form.

scientific partner

Sea Leopard Project

equipment required

A camera and the ability to print sighting forms, scan and email to the Sea Leopard Project

training

If a guest is completing the sighting form, an experienced marine mammal expert should oversee the entry to ensure behavioral observations are accurate

resources required

One staff member to introduce the Sea Leopard Project and to remind guests following leopard seal encounters. Staff to distribute sighting forms to guests, collect, scan and email to the Sea Leopard Project. 


Penguin Watch

Penguin Watch partners with popular citizen science site Zooniverse and asks the public to monitor over 100 penguin sites by marking adult penguins, chicks and eggs from images captured by a remote camera network. Over 6 million images have been classified by 48,000 enthusiastic volunteers!

scientific partners

Penguin Lifelines & Oceanites

equipment required

Internet connection

training and resources required

No training is required. This is a project to encourage guests to participate in once they return home from their trip, and no resources are required on board except to introduce the project and/or to include it in end of voyage information.