Molly Beauchemin

Citizen Science: March With The Penguins

“Citizen Science” refers to the method of relying on everyday people to collect or analyze data as part of a larger scientific project. With the advent of Internet technology, this method of research– akin to crowd-sourcing– has become more popular than ever before, especially for environmental scientists, whose research often encompasses large areas of land that would otherwise not be feasible to visit. For Lil’ Sprouts, Citizen Science projects offer the chance for accessible, hands-on environmental education in one’s own backyard. Some of the projects we feature are adventurous nature treks while others are more leisurely undertakings– but all encourage exploring nature in one capacity or another.

Below, read our profile of Penguin Watch, a project that brings penguins from the vast expanse of Antarctica into your very own home.

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Penguin Watch, a research collective, is giving you an excuse to look at cute pictures of penguins all day. In the face of climate change, penguins’ habitat is changing rapidly. While penguins’ current behaviors and patterns are still not yet fully understood, Penguin Watch (the citizen science facet of Penguin Lifelines), hopes to collect information on how penguins live in order to better understand how we can help them survive in the coming years.

As Antartica is a somewhat inhospitable research environment, Penguin Lifelines–a collaboration between Oxford University, Stony Brook University, and other research institutions–installed satellite-linked cameras to address current gaps in data. However, the cameras collect far more data than the scientists at Penguin Lifelines could ever categorize–which is where you come in!


After viewing a brief tutorial on the basic features of the system, you will be presented with an image from one of Penguin Lifelines’ cameras. You can tag adult penguins, chicks, eggs, or “other”, if additional species of bird are present. Perfect for Lil’ Sprouts with limited attention spans, you can spend as much or as little time as you like tagging images–there is no minimum amount of commitment and you don’t need to make an account to participate.

As a way to expose Lil’ Sprouts to natural science research, Penguin Watch offers an easy (and cute) introduction. Children can observe images of animals in the wild and learn more about Antartica’s ecosystem from the comfort of their own home–the perfect activity to bring nature indoors during the winter months. So break out your sharpest tux and invite over some well-dressed friends!


Antarctic Pearlwart growing in the wild, by Roger Key

Sprouts Science

  • What grows in the Antarctica?

Conditions in Antarctica are very harsh: the cold and the lack of soil make it hard for plants to grow. There are only two flowering plants that grow in Antarctica: Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic pearlwort. However, on Antartica there are 100 types of moss, 300-400 types of lichen, and 20 different types of fungi! With climate change, however, these plants are growing much more readily in the warmer weather. Though penguins are carnivores, the tussock grass is essential to many penguins who use it for nesting.

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