Match My Whale - a Humpback Whale Fluke Identification Project

Match My Whale logoProject Name:
Match My Whale, visit matchmywhale.org

Study System:

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae

Project Site(s):
Australia, with planned expansions. 

Project Aims:
Using citizen science to assist our researchers with a long-term photo-ID study (see: Pacific Whale Foundation’s Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Catalog).

Motivation and Goals:

Humpback whales can be identified using photos of the underside of the flukes.  Each whale has unique features, including the overall shape of the flukes, the shape of the trailing edge, any acquired scars, and natural pigmentation.  With increased cataloging effort, large catalogs become cumbersome for researchers in terms of comparing incoming photographs to each cataloged individual. To identify a whale as a new individual involves comparing that whale against thousands of photos, making this task extremely time consuming.   

Using citizen scientists to crowdsource our matching effort will greatly reduce the workload of our researchers and allow the public to become more directly involved with our catalog by contributing photos and assisting with the matching process.

This work is done in collaboration with the Centre for Whale Research (www.cwr.org.au). 

Methods:

Users go to www.matchmywhale.org, where they log in and register.  They receive training material that will guide them through required tests that ensure consistency among participants. 

The training and tests pertain to three major steps of the process: (1) scoring the quality of photographs, (2) classifying the pigment pattern (e.g., mostly white, mostly black, 50% white, etc.), and (3) searching the online catalog of photographs for matches. 

Next Steps:

With the recent launch of the public site, our next steps involve encouraging the public to register and use the site.  With more participants, the entire process becomes more efficient and we increase the likelihood of getting accurate matches.  Please note that participating in Match My Whale is not the same as donating photos to the PWF research catalog. 

Most Recent Publication:

2015. Stack, S.H., Currie, J.J., Swabb, M.H., Kaufman, G.D. and Martinez, E. Evaluating citizen scientist efficacy at cataloging humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) using the crowdsourcing web application Match My Whale. Document SC/66a/SH/01 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, San Diego, USA: 20 May – 4 June. 36 pp.

PWF Awarded $85,000 Grant for Whale Tale Crowdsourcing Program