It’s important that we find creative ways while we socially distance to engage with our colleagues and our community. Team members out of our Chicago office did just that. They decided to host a virtual penguin watch party that also benefited the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo.
Over the past two decades, Antarctic penguin populations have decreased by more than 25%. What’s even more troublesome? Some penguin colonies have even declined by more than 75%! The leading cause: climate change. “The Antarctic Peninsula’s average temperature has warmed by five degrees Fahrenheit over the last 60 years, according to (a) Oceanites report. The winter months have seen a steeper increase — with average temperatures that are nine degrees Fahrenheit warmer than those in the late 1960s.” This creates a multitude of challenges for penguins such as threatening breeding grounds and food sources.
Because of this steep decline, it’s important to understand exactly how penguins are being affected by these challenges so that we can help reverse the damage. Penguin Watch aims at just that.
Oxford University runs Penguin Watch with the help of collaborators worldwide. They monitor the change in penguin populations to “inform policy and educate the public on the impacts of climate change”. How do they do this? Lots and lots of data. Their team has put out cameras all around Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to observe penguin populations. Because they have over 125,000 photos that need to be analyzed 10 times each, the research group has made the photos available online and asks the public to help count the number of penguins, chicks, and eggs in each photo.
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Our Chicago team members decided that the Penguin Watch was something that they could virtually do together successfully. However, they wanted to tie a local organization in as well. For every penguin that a participant in the event counted, the team pledged to donate $0.10 per penguin – up to $250.00 to the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo. A leader in animal conservation and education, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately managed, non-profit zoo. The zoo is also known for their penguin encounter offerings.
The team started the event by learning a little bit about penguins and threats to their population. They discussed the benefits of Penguin Watch and the Lincoln Park Zoo. Each participant then navigated to the watch website to count penguins in research photos on their own computers while chatting and sharing penguin screenshots during a group Microsoft Teams meeting.
During the event, 27 participants counted a total of 24,743 penguins for the Penguin Watch research program. Reaching the maximum allotment of $250.00, the team put their donation into the penguin “adoption” program at the Lincoln Park Zoo. By donating to “adopt” a penguin, the team will receive a certificate from the zoo and will eventually display in the Chicago Wacker office.
“Through this event, we were able to support our local community and contribute to a global cause for marine conservation. This puts into perspective of how a simple task such as counting penguins online can add up to make a large, positive impact. Overall, this event was important to gather our colleagues together for a good purpose, be able to engage conversationally with each other, and remind everyone that there’s always a way to create a positive impact.”
–Sydney Cucerzan, Event Organizer, Technical Consultant
Want to learn more about how you can help penguins?
- See how Penguin Watch helps save penguins
- Help out by counting penguins yourself!
- Visit the Global Penguin Society
- Adopt a penguin – you can also check with your local zoo to see if they offer adoption programs, like the Lincoln Park Zoo
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