Counting Gray Seals with Google Earth Imagery

We recently came across this article about a scientific study of the populations gray seals in the North Atlantic that used Google Earth imagery to do a census.

One of the locations mentioned in the article is Muskeget Island, Massachusetts. We did manage to find the seals, but were also impressed by how much the sand bars change over time:

Moving sandbars at Muskeget Island, Massachusetts.


It certainly is a popular destination for Seals

The shallow water around the island makes it possible to see many of the seals in the water.

The above location has aerial imagery which is higher resolution than satellite imagery. Satellite imagery typically is not good enough resolution for spotting or counting animals. However, it is sometimes feasible in cases where the animals stand out such as seals on the ice in Antarctica. It has also been used to count whales which, in addition to being very large, also stand out in the ocean. However, Google Earth typically does not have much satellite imagery of the oceans other than a thin strip around the land, so we have only been able to find a few examples of whales in Google Earth imagery.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


  1. Will it be called “armchair ecologist”? 😉

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