According to a Boston Globe article, citizen scientists are helping the professional ones by mining data at sites like Flikr to track the migration patterns of whales.
By scouring a photo-sharing website for tourists’ pictures of whales, a citizen scientist from Maine has helped to document a female humpback’s record-breaking 6,000-mile journey from Brazil to Madagascar. The remarkable voyage of whale number 1363 from one breeding ground to another is a scientific discovery for the social-networking age — a study made possible both by vacation photos posted on Flickr and an exhaustive library of photos of whales’ tails that scientists have built since the 1970s.
The tail of “Whale 1363” was first cataloged by scientists off the coast of Brazil in 1999. Then, two years later, Norwegian Freddy Johansen snapped a film picture of her off the coast of Madagascar. In 2009, Freddy scanned in a bunch of old negatives from this trip and uploaded them to his Flickr account, and this shot was found by Gale McCullough of Hancock, Maine, who regularly monitors tourists’ whale photos trying to match tails. An online pre-print of her discovery was published today in Biology Letters.
The lines become more blurred every day.