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The Great Seal Count

"The Great Seal Count" artwork. Seal on a glacier.


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0708 - The Great Seal Count - Transcript
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How do you count the cutest seals on the planet? With the help from thousands of people around the world! Conservation scientist Leo Salas explains the story behind the first-ever global count of Weddell seals in Antarctica. Plus, you’ll find out what counting seals shares with searching for ancient tombs!

Meet Leo Salas

Leo Salas is a quantitative ecologist, which means that he uses math to solve problems in the environment and its resources. In the seal count, he wanted to answer the question of whether humans fishing for toothfish was affecting the number of seals.

Photo of Leo Salas

Since the seal count was completed, Leo has begun working on several other citizen science projects! He told us that the work of citizen scientists inspired and humbled him.


The seal count may be over (for now), but you can find citizen science projects in almost any area of science, and in your own community! Here are our favorite sites:

"The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers."

Available on the web, and on iOs and Android apps.

"SciStarter is a globally acclaimed, online citizen science hub where more than 3,000 projects, searchable by location, topic, age level, etc, have been registered by individual project leaders or imported through partnerships with federal governments, NGOs, and universities."

"One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature."

Listen to our episode "Discover the Wildlife of Your Home" for an example of how to use iNaturalist.


All images are by Dr. Michelle La Rue.

Here's an example of the satellite images citizen scientists saw when they logged on to count seals:

Aerial perspective on seal locations shown on map

Can you see the "widdle" grey commas? That's the seals!

Aerial perspective on seal locations shown on map

Okay, let's zoom in to those adorable puppy-like faces, and chunky, furry bodies!

Two seals laying together on ice.

What a sweet cuddle session!

Two seals taking a nap on the ice.

Nap time on the ice!

A close up on a seal's face.

What a face! Seriously, the cutest seals on the planet.

Learn more at Weddell Seal Science.



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