Rising to the challenge

78754361Over the years I have found some fantastic ways to waste time and procrastinate and having access to a phone and iPad linked to the internet has only made things easier. I can trace my inability to concentrate on things that matter back to the school bus. When I started my A levels I used to sit next to a girl in the year above for the hour-long journey to school – and yes that was our closest secondary school. She used the time to do her A level physics revision – working through exam question after exam question in the dead time between 8am and 9am. I sat beside her looking out of the window and wishing I could be more like her. She got an A – I barely scraped a D.

Now my bus journey to work is only 15 minutes long – but I still haven’t got the hang of using dead time to my advantage, despite the technology available. Instead of using my iPad to catch up on my emails or learn Italian like the people around me, I use it to play patience. I haven’t even got the patience to see that through – clicking my way to a new game without even starting if I don’t get a decent hand on the first deal.

But now I’ve found something that can actually make use of this dead time without even trying – as of yesterday I have been spending my morning commute saving the planet by harnessing my love of mind-numbing games to help Oxford University study penguins.

The University is recruiting thousands of armchair (or bus seat) scientists to help them to make sense of thousands of photographs of the Antarctic. All you have to do is register with the website and after a short demo, start work going through each photograph as it pings on to your screen and start identifying, with a different coloured marker, adult penguins, chicks and penguin eggs. It’s fun, amazingly addictive and surprisingly satisfying. By identifying the penguins we are all helping to build a picture of how the penguins’ population and breeding patterns are changing and trying to quantify the effect of climate change on these and other wildlife as their icy habitat continues to shrink. We are also freeing up scientists to concentrate more on the science bits. It’s one of a dozen or so similar citizen science projects – so if you don’t fancy counting penguins you can try counting stars, condors or worms.

So finally, after all these years, I can hold my head up high on the bus. It may look like I’m playing a really realistic, grown-up game of Club Penguin, but, if anyone asks, I’m just catching up on some Very Important Research on climate change for Oxford University.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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