Condor Watch has been a long-lived project, soaring across an ever-expanding range, much like the birds whose lives this project catalogs. And we wouldn’t have even gotten off the ground without you, our volunteers! For years, Condor Watchers have carefully documented feeding positions and chatted about scale antics and juvenile floofs. We cannot thank you enough for the many hours devoted to this project.
Over the past two years, photos processed by Condor Watchers have been analyzed by Lisa Natale, a graduate student at University of Colorado with a background in pure mathematics. Lisa gave us our first detailed look at the social networks of California condors based on your Condor Watch data! She used social rank, determined from feeding order and carcass proximity in photos, to predict an individual’s future risk of lead poisoning. Her initial results are informative. One factor that can obscure the links between dominance and lead-poisoning risk is a striking and unexpected lack of stability in condor social networks, especially early in the condor release program. We are excited to use Condor Watch data to investigate what contributed to early social instability and what led to increasing stability through time. A stable social network is likely essential to a well-functioning wild flock and may prove to be critical to successful recovery for these gregarious birds. You can read more about Lisa’s work here.
The data analysis baton is being passed to Dr. David Zonana, also of University of Colorado, who specializes in animal social networks. Because Zooniverse has discontinued the platform hosting Condor Watch, the project has gone offline while David refines and expands our existing analyses.
We plan to refine and re-boot Condor Watch based on the results of David’s analyses this summer, with the aim of streamlining photo processing tasks to improve the volunteer experience and to speed data collection. Look for Condor Watch 2.0 to relaunch on Zooniverse's new platform!