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On May 12, 2016, a group of 30 students from five high schools in Winnipeg visited the Assiniboine Park Zoo to learn how to use digital imagery to study Arctic animals. The one-day, hands-on workshop, led by Kelvin students and facilitated by researchers at Assiniboine Park Zoo and teachers from the University of Manitoba, helped participants develop skillsets for identifying polar bears and Arctic seals in northern Manitoba.
Using the Zoo’s nine polar bears as subjects, students photographed the bears’ whiskers and then analyzed the high resolution images at the research lab inside the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. The students then used facial recognition software to identify the bears using whisker spot patterns – skills they can put in to practice when they travel to Churchill this autumn.
“One of the goals of this workshop is to develop student leaders who can then get other students at their schools excited about Arctic research,” said Dr. Stephen Petersen, Head, Conservation and Research at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. “This is a great way for students to actively participate in science - collecting the data but also analyzing and presenting the results.”
The workshop was run in conjunction with Science Odyssey (#OdySci), a collaborative event geared to engage and inspire Canadians of all ages with accomplishments and activities in science. Digital imagery and remote sensing are an effective and non-invasive way to study wildlife and are particularly important in Arctic regions where climate change is negatively impacting Arctic mammals.