Are you a citizen scientist who wants to track whales and dolphins? There is an app for that. Pacific Whale Foundation‘s new Whale & Dolphin Tracker application is now available for download from the App Store and Google Play.
W&D Tracker was developed by researchers at PWF in partnership with International Underwater Explorations, a GIS (geospatial information system) company that fuses real-time data from a wide range of sources.
With the app, users can record their vessel GPS track and sightings of marine wildlife from their phone. Information that can be recorded includes the GPS location, group dynamics, observed behaviors, photos, and other data. This information is uploaded in real time and added to a global research database.
“We’re excited that members of the public can use Whale & Dolphin Tracker to participate in our research as citizen scientists from any location around the world,” said Jens Currie, PWF Senior Research Analyst. “Their contributions will help us and other researchers track and monitor cetaceans, determine patterns of species distribution, build life histories of individual animals, and study their interactions with the environment.”
W&D Tracker was initially designed and built as a web-based application in 2010 to allow PWF’s marine naturalists to gather research data on whale and dolphin distribution and activities in the region surrounding Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kaho‘olawe.
An interactive live sightings map on the PWF website displays all sightings logged by the tracker within the last seven days. A similar map for Hervey Bay is available during whale watching season in Australia (July-October). Viewers of both can use species and date filters to see changes throughout the year. A successful fundraising campaign in 2016 provided the funding to bring the web-based application to mobile platforms.
“Currently, the live sightings map focuses on tracking data collected from our ocean ecotours that are used as platforms of opportunity for gathering additional sightings information,” said Currie. “Now that more users will have access to Whale & Dolphin Tracker directly from their phones, our crowdsourcing ability and geographical coverage will expand, and so will our knowledge of whale and dolphin distribution.”
The app is free for both iOS and Android mobile devices. Go to Pacificwhale.org for more information.
Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons