Every year, more than 50,000 belugas leave the waters of the Arctic in the spring to swim in Canada’s Hudson Bay. They spend the winter under the sea ice and no one really knows exactly why they leave the area when it melts, but scientists are happy to be able to get a good look at the animals during that time and they’re enlisting your help.
Since 2013, an underwater camera attached to the Beluga Boat traveling on Manitoba’s Churchill River Estuary livestreams the thousands of belugas visiting the area. Anyone with an internet connection can observe and hear the marine mammals as they swim, eat, nurse around the Hudson Bay, but they can also do much more than oh and aw at the majestic creatures.
During July and August, the Beluga Bits research team asks that viewers become citizen scientists and capture screenshots of the undersides of the belugas they spot on their screens, as well as any beluga that has distinctive markings. From those images, experts can help create a catalog of the animals, as well as determine the social structure of a beluga pod, each animal’s history, and the belugas’ habitat use.
There is still a lot we don’t know about these beautiful white whales, and we need to learn as much as we can about them soon as they depend on the rapidly melting sea ice and are threatened by climate change. So start watching those cute whales on your devices and screenshot to your heart’s content.