Polar bear photo database created
Anyone who has taken nice close-ups of polar bears in the wild is being asked to contribute their photos to the online polar bear research database put together by biologists from the University of Central Florida. The idea is to follow polar bears throughout their lives and observe their behaviour, so photos with the date and location clearly noted are in high demand. Photos will help track individual bears by their whisker prints, which are unique to each bear and work like fingerprints in humans. Polar bears are ranked as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, so tracking down members of polar bear population and observing them through time may aid in the preservation efforts. Photo submissions can be made at http://polarbears.ucf.edu/.
If you have taken one or more photographs of polar bears in the wild, noting the date and location of the images, you can participate in the largest-ever study to identify individual bears by their "whisker prints."
Like human fingerprints, the size and arrangement of the spots near a bear's whiskers allow researchers to create a distinct profile for each bear.
Images from the cameras, as well as from the public, are going into the first-of-its-kind polar bear photo library. A software program, similar to an algorithm NASA uses to map stars, identifies each bear by its whisker print.
"Identifying individuals repeatedly through photography can also inform biological observations, such as age of maturity, growth rate and foraging ecology."
Both past and recent images are welcome for the polar bear photo database project. If you plan to take such photographs in future, Waterman notes that she and her team are particularly interested in sharp, clearly focused close-ups of the bear's facial profile, taken perpendicular to the camera's access.