The Galapagos marine iguana is an emblematic species of the Galapagos Archipelago. Naturally it only occurs in these islands. Unfortunately, it is endangered with extinction because of increasing anthropogenic threats and a complete survey studying its population size is not available because of the difficulty that reaching many of its colonies represent. Obtaining this information is critical to improve conservation management of the species.
In this project, started on 2020, we are using developing technology to access all marine iguana colonies. By taking aerial images of the coastline, using drones launched from boats, we are finally capable of covering the entire known distribution range of this species but also have found new colonies. This new approach will help us to estimate the population size of the marine iguanas in a short time but also collect data on co-habiting species and plastic objects sharing the space that can be analyzed by other researchers and local managers.
Since covering a large area with aerial imagery represents collecting tons of data, we have developed a citizen science project to speed up the analysis. So far we have found that volunteers can identify iguanas accurately but also develop a special interest regarding conservation in this iconic Archipelago. The largest citizen science platform Zooniverse.org hosts our project and we have obtained more than 9000 volunteers participating with us. Currently, a third phase is active which includes islands from the North and we expect to get more people involved each time. Join us!
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