What is Citizen Science?

Scientific research is essential to understand the challenges of climate change facing pristine regions like the Arctic and Antarctica, but conducting scientific research can be hugely costly and time-consuming. That's where you, and citizen science programs, come in.

  • The travel industry brings thousands of visitors to the polar regions, with huge potential for researchers to use this footfall to gather data.
  • On certain ​Antarctic ​voyages, guest​s​ can participate and collaborate in scientific research projects.
  • Research focuses on five major disciplines: Oceanography, Glaciology, Ornithology, Marine Biology and Meteorology.
  • The data collected ​helps ​directly contribute to a better understanding of climate change and how it's affecting the polar regions.

What citizen science projects can volunteers do?

Cloud observations (with NASA)

Clouds affect how much sunlight is being absorbed by the earth and how much heat is escaping back into space.

For this study, you will observe and record cloud cover timed to NASA satellite fly-overs, helping scientists understand how surface and air temperature are affected by cloud cover, and how clouds will respond to a changing climate.

© Photo credited to the Polar Citizen Science Collective

Citizen Science

Seabird surveys

This study involves conducting bird surveys at sea and on shore, helping scientists to understand meso-scale (within tens of kilometres) seabird distribution patterns and habitat usage in the Southern Ocean.

Often a favourite of polar travellers, conducting these surveys means working in small groups with an ornithologist, and being out on deck with your binoculars.


By tracking individual whales throughout the world’s oceans, this study is expanding our scientific knowledge of the whales’ behaviour and distribution.

You are encouraged to capture photos of whale sightings and upload them, recording when and where the photos were taken, to happywhale.com. When you get home, you can even 'follow' the whales you spot during your cruise as they migrate throughout the year.

© Photo credited to Hugh Rose

Citizen Science
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What our customers think of Citizen Science

Customer Image

Very professional, well versed, informative and interesting staff. We learned so much and felt like we got to know them. They would join us for meals, stop by and visit as we were hanging out in the lounge and just plain interact with us as shipmates. Really cool. It was amazing the backgrounds and work that these folks have done in their careers. I signed up for kayaking (Bob) and the team that lead that was great. We got to paddle quite a bit and got to see many things from an entirely different perspective. Above all else, their overall focus on safety and bio-security was impressive. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2020

Monica Scott - United States Of America

They are inspirational. Alison encouraged me on the science boat, Wendy explained the bird life and I enjoyed a survey with her. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2021

Chris Dixon - UK

All the staff were knowledgeable and made the experience much more educational than I had anticipated. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2019

Mike Ciccolella - United States Of America

The experts were wonderful and I think the lectures and daily recaps were very valuable. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2019

Mukund Shenoy - United States Of America

We all need to be ambassadors for this unique planet of ours. Read the full review

Travelled: October 2019

Sue Quelch - United Kingdom

The lectures were a highlight, such amazing insight and talent in our staff on board. And taking part in the Citizen Science programmes whilst on board were informative. Read the full review

Travelled: October 2019

Sue Quelch - United Kingdom

The Antarctic is a world unto itself; there is nothing like it anywhere. I am very active in wildlife conservation and the impacts of climate change so I appreciated the knowledge of the staff and the science which is ongoing on the continent. I didn't want to end the trip; I could have stayed for another two months exploring, data collecting etc. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Jane Alexander - United States Of America


Study of marine phytoplankton

This study helps scientists understand how the distribution, composition and abundance of phytoplankton are altering as the oceans are affected by climate change.

You will use a Secchi Disk to record the Secchi Depth – the depth when the Secchi Disk disappears from sight when lowered vertically into the seawater from a stationary boat. The study offers participants a unique insight into the marine food chain.

FjordPhyto phytoplankton sampling

Melted glacial water can influence and change the population of phytoplankton in fjords – this study is helping researchers understand what impact this might have on the polar coastal ecosystem.

You will collect phytoplankton as you visit various fjords along the Antarctic Peninsula throughout the austral summer.

© Photo credited to Allison Cusick

Citizen Science

Sea ice observations

This mostly Arctic-based study helps scientists understand and track the progression of the melt of sea ice in summer. You will observe the age, type and topography of sea ice, while navigating through it.

Penguin watch

This is the only study you can get involved with from anywhere in the world! Scientists have placed time-lapse cameras around penguin colonies across Antarctica.

These cameras take many images each day, recording the numbers of penguins and giving vital information about declining penguin numbers. You can help scientists process the vast amounts of data by counting penguins in images on the Penguin Watch website.

© Photo credited to the Polar Citizen Science Collective

Citizen Science
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Swoop says

Want to get involved? Speak to our specialists about the voyages which will give you the most opportunities to contribute to citizen science programs.

The Polar Citizen Science Collective

The Polar Citizen Science Collective facilitates ship-based citizen science programmes in the polar regions. It was founded in 2015 by five expedition guides including friends-of-Swoop Bob Gilmore, who helps co-ordinate programs on expedition ships, and Ted Cheeseman, founder of happywhale.com. Together, they saw an opportunity to involve guests in scientific research. 

The collective argue that their education programs help create ambassadors, 'committed, enthusiastic and action-oriented travelers who will return home to champion for the protection of the polar regions'. 

Citizen Science

Citizen Science board on board a ship

What impact can citizen science make on the climate crisis?

The Antarctic is a critical part of the Earth’s climate system and a sensitive barometer of climate change. Understanding how the polar regions are responding to climate change is essential for monitoring change and predicting future changes.

Many scientific studies tracking trends rely on ‘big data’, which is exactly what citizen science can supply - the global eBird project, for example, run by the Cornell University Ornithology Lab, received over 3 million data sets from citizen scientists in 2015. By giving policy makers and politicians accurate information, these scientific studies can inform conservation efforts and policies. 

Citizen Science

Wildlife watching for the Citizen Science program

Our best trips for Citizen Science

What else happens on an Expeditionary Cruise?

Read Swoop’s Guide to find out more about what you’ll do on an Antarctic cruise.

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