The project was set up by Tom Hart, a researcher in the University of Oxford Department of Zoology. It has international collaborators including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division. Hart is shown here changing camera angles on Petermann Island, Antarctic Peninsula.
"We're trying to create massive, massive datasets that automatically report what's going on and feed into policy," explains Hart. Pictured, steam rises up the slope from the side of Saunders Island in the South Sandwich archipelago.
For the last five years, Hart and his team of three have headed south for the winter months to collect more data. Hitching rides from tourist boats and the odd chartered yacht to reach more remote locations, the team have been able to canvas an incredible amount of the Antarctic region. Here, cameras capture emperor penguins at Gould Bay, Weddell Sea.
Hart servicing one of the cameras in the field. "We've been out in the field and now we're coming back to go through all these data (taking) it from raw data to process," he says. "The whole point of this is we're learning fundamental things about penguins but the whole point is to turn this into something that can inform policy."
While the enthusiastic scientist hopes that one day ambient technology will allow computers to better identify data from recorded images, he admits that at present little progress would be made without the help of citizen scientists. He adds: "We wanted to really take advantage of the huge amount of goodwill out there for penguins and the human eye is far better extracting the data than computers are -- probably ever will be." Nesting Macaroni penguins are captured on a remote camera set up in South Georgia.
Adelie penguins are monitored during spring months at the Yalour Islands, Antarctic Peninsula. While Hart reveals it's still too early in the project to make solid conclusions, he does believe that all is not lost. "We're seeing that with penguins in parts of Australia, NZ and Africa, despite the fact that most of those populations are still endangered, we can see where you fix the problems, locally, they seem to do well. Fix the problems, the outlook is good. (But) with climate change, that's a very poor prognosis in the peninsula region."