The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPSW) of South Australia has launched a website called Sea Lion Spotter, enabling members of the public to identify and classify sea lions from thousands of images captured during drone surveys.
Researches from the NPSW hope school students from South Australia and around the country can help them with the online citizen science project by helping to go through the massive amounts of data collected during these surveys.
It is hoped the tool will not only help the project keep track of sea lion numbers in South Australia, but also give them greater public visibility in general. This may be key in creating the type of public interest required to keep the animals safe into the future, whether that be through advocacy or continuing funding for research projects like this one.
"By bringing Sea Lion Spotter and sea lions to people who can sit and classify them at home, they get an interest and hopefully become advocates for a species that's in decline," Marine Coordinator for NPSW SA, Dirk Holman, told ABC News.
So far, a great number of people Australia and over 20 other countries, including as far away as Russia, have participated in the population surveys.
Unfortunately, the endemic Australian sea lions face several threats that are mainly human-induced. Populations have been depleted in recent years by issues such as habitat destruction, prey depletion, pollutants, marine debris and commercial fisheries bycatch, to name a few.
However, sea lion chances just improved thanks to the help of Australian students and this new online tool. To find out more about Australian sea lions, check out the information available on the NPWS SA website.
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