Crowdsourcing Serengeti Photos

“After Ali Swanson, an ecology researcher from the University of Minnesota, set up 225 cameras over 400 square miles of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, she was hit by the curse of Big Data: how do you make sense of the head-spinning contents of more than a million photographs?” (Daily Beast)

To identify so many photos, the researchers decided to enlist the aid of the public.  Anyone could register at the Snapshot Serengeti Project and begin identifying the animals and birds in the photos.  Multiple identifications of each photo help ensure accuracy, although the researchers also check things over.  The project, which began in December of 1012 was so popular that by the following February two years of photos were already classified.  The project is now engaged in uploading more photos for the public to identify.

The Serengeti Project is part of a larger University of Minnesota Lion Project which  “has been studying African lions in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area since the 1960’s. At any given time, our field teams keep track of about 330 lions in 24 prides in the Serengeti, and 50–60 lions in 5 prides on the floor of Ngorongoro Crater. . . over 5,000 lions have been included in the Serengeti and Crater studies over the past 40+ years.”  (SnapshotSerengeti)  To learn more about the findings from this lion research, read the blog written at the Snapshot Serengeti web site.

The Snapshot Serengeti Lion Project is one of many crowdsourcing projects located at Zooniverse where the public can assist in such projects as transcribing weather data from Royal Navy WW1 era ships (OldWeather) to searching for planets (Planet Hunters).

Other popular crowdsourcing projects include:

  •  Transcribe Bentham, the University College London’s efforts to digitize all the unpublished manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham
  • Project organized by the New York Public Library to transcribe and digitize more than 40,000 old menus
  • The U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Phrenology Program which asks the public to transcribe note cards recording bird migration observations
  • The Sixties Project which encourages members of the 60’s generation to contribute their own personal narratives.  The project also includes online exhibits, links to primary documents, and the online journal  Vietnam Generation.
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