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If you’re concerned about the effects of climate change on Arctic wildlife, now you have a way to get involved from your home by signing up to become what the World Wide Fund for Nature has described as a ‘walrus sleuth’ .
The WWF and the British Antarctic Survey hope to track the numbers of Atlantic walruses and Laptev over five years to find out how climate change can affect people, and they are hoping for help from the public. Those involved in the Walrus From Space project will be tasked with one simple goal: to spot walruses from space.
The satellites will regularly capture photos across Russia, Greenland, Norway and Canada for five years and these photos will then be made available to walrus detectives, who can use their computers to search for the high-resolution photos for the walruses. . The public’s detective work will help researchers, as well as indigenous Arctic communities and other inhabitants working towards the same goal, WWF said.
All it takes to be a walrus sleuth is to watch an online tutorial and then take a test that assesses your “walrus identification” prowess. And children as young as 10 can sign up to help (under adult supervision), WWF said. The organization hopes that half a million people will join the Walrus From Space effort.
“The walrus is an iconic species of great cultural significance to arctic people, but climate change is melting their icy home,” Rod Downie, WWF chief polar adviser, said in a statement to NPR . “It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a climate and natural emergency, but this project empowers individuals to take action to understand a species threatened by the climate crisis, and help save their future.
Climate change has put the walrus population at risk. The Arctic, where these walruses live, is warming almost three times faster than the rest of the planet, according to the British Antarctic Survey. (Again in 2014, it was only heating up twice as fast.)
One of the factors to blame is the snowmelt which disrupts an essential cycle: usually sunlight reflects off the snow, reflecting that heat back into space and keeping the ground cool, but when the snow and the ice instead melts, revealing the ground below, this reflection does not occur and the ground begins to absorb heat from the sun, NPR previously reported.
Each decade, about 13% of summer sea ice melts, according to WWF. As the ice melted, the life of walruses became more and more difficult. Instead of being able to rest on pack ice (where they also typically give birth to their young), they have to do so on land, which means a longer trip for food and limited travel overall, according to WWF. . Their food itself is also affected, as climate change has made it more difficult for the marine life they eat, such as sea snails, to survive.