This afternoon, riding the bus home from work, one woman was describing how she’d decorated her home with African style furniture and symbols, giraffes, zebras, tigers, etc. She was even wearing a zebra striped blouse! Some how the conversation morphed to cool online tools, and then I thought, “Hey! These connect!” and started telling her about the citizen science project, Snapshot Serengeti.
In their words:
“Hundreds of camera traps in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, are providing a powerful new window into the dynamics of Africa’s most elusive wildlife species. We need your help to classify all the different animals caught in millions of camera trap images.”
That was the beginning. December 11, 2012. Yes, two months ago. Millions of images. Are there animals in this picture? What kind of animals are there? Oh, no, look, there’s a fire! A long line of fire on the horizon. Is that a gazelle tail, or dry grass blowing in front of the camera? Hmmm. A zebra! I know a zebra when I see one. Wow, she looks like a large cat got to her. Millions of pictures.
Cataloging the images must feel like going on Safari from your living room. Pretty amazing. I can sure see why people loved doing this. Evidently a lot of people. And evidently for a lot of their time. The pictures feeding their dreams, and their dreams feeding the science and data analysis process. Even so, EVEN SO, I am absolutely stunned that all of the millions of images have been cataloged! Well, all the ones they have right now, except for a few they saved.
In their words, take two:
“With your help, we’ve classified all the data we have so far. Great work! We’re leaving some images up for further classification, but we have more projects (like Cyclone Center and Bat Detective) that need your help. Visit http://zooniverse.org to see them all.”
They are right. There are a lot of wonderful projects like this. The bus conversation started taking a new direction. If we can’t “virtually” go do research in Africa right now, what about undersea? Oh, sure, no problem.
What about Digital Fishers?
Or SeaFloor Explorer?
Oh, that sounds lovely, they murmur. What about Florida? Or the Bahamas?
I don’t know. I promise to look.
Audubon Florida is asking folk in Florida to count birds.
That doesn’t, however, allow us in cold dry Michigan to pretend we are in Florida. The Old Weather project allows folk to track old ship voyages and map the weather for the trips, many of which were in Florida.
Bahamas? What about their program, Shark Counts?
You can go to the Bahamas, take dives, and count the sharks you see! Yeah! Oh, uh, well, you don’t dive, hmm, maybe not.
There are tools for finding all kinds of citizen science projects, and more appear all the time. But I think that will have to be for another post.