Located just north of Santa Cruz, Año Nuevo Reserve is a part of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System and is home to thousands of marine mammals and birds. Each year, nearly 100,000 visitors come to Año Nuevo Reserve to observe northern elephant seals and learn about the history of the reserve on docent-led tours. On these tours, Año Nuevo Island can be observed just offshore, with the remains of a 19th century lighthouse and fog signal station visible from the mainland. However, Año Nuevo island is only visited by researchers and conservation groups that study the many species of nesting birds as well as marine mammals that frequent its shores. Now the public has the opportunity to get an up-close look at the island, while also helping researchers count the seals and sea lions that call Año Nuevo home.
To study when and where the animals haul out, researchers took drone photos of the island about every two weeks for the past four years. Although the island is small, thousands of animals can inhabit it at a time, which is where citizen scientists like you come in! We need your help to count each individual animal on a given day. We have divided the drone photos into small sections - some sections may be full of animals, and some may be empty. By helping us classify these photos, you can be part of a collaborative project to better understand how many seals, sea lions, and birds are on Año Nuevo Island during different times of the year, and how the population sizes fluctuate between years.