Zoological crowdsourcing

    Office workers, caught by their superiors during working hours watching photos on the net, got another good excuse. Now they can tell the angry boss that they just wanted to help scientists study rare animals in the Serengeti National Park.

    Speaking a little more seriously, the initiativeZooniverse scientists are not new. It consists in the fact that an archive of photographs taken by security cameras in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania was posted in open access. In recent years, scientists have installed several hundred cameras equipped with motion sensors that record animals living in the Serengeti. Since then, cameras have taken several million photos, which far exceeds the ability of scientists to process them. Therefore, it was decided to attract ordinary Internet users to this.

    Anyone can visit the specially created site snapshotserengeti.org, and after making just a couple of clicks, start viewing the photos, noting the animals that are captured on them. As a rule, we are talking about a sequential series of 2-3 photos - it is just the number of frames that are triggered by a motion sensor made by cameras installed in the Serengeti.

    The site’s interface is so simple that even a child can handle it (at first, of course, not without the help of adults). According to Chris Lintott (project manager), studies have shown that people without special education can successfully determine the types of animals photographed. To facilitate the process, the site has an extensive hint system.

    Firstly, a list of animals living in the Serengeti has been prepared in advance for the user, so the task is to simply click on the correct button. Most likely, you can easily recognize a lion or giraffe, and for more “complex” cases there is a well-thought-out classification system for animal sizes, color, shape of horns, tails, and so on. A description of each animal and a list of species from which it can be confused is indicated; and if the photo completely baffles you, you can ask for help from the “colleagues” on the forum .

    Thanks to this, recognition of the type of an animal sometimes turns into a fascinating puzzle. “We hope that vivid photos will make people participate,” say Snapshot Serengeti. According to them, the currently available computer systems for automatic recognition so far give too poor a result for animals, so volunteers cannot do without help.

    In addition to research value, among the photos posted there are many simply beautiful and funny pictures. There are special notes for photographs that capture people, as well as for "empty" frames. All this formed a huge interest in the site, which allowed us to process more than 3 million photos in less than a week!

    All photographs presented are available under a Creative Commons 3.0 license, and the site was created using HTML5. This is not the first such project organized by Zooniverse - similar online recognition systems were used by their specialists to process research in the field of climatology and astronomy. It cannot but impress how the simplicity and accessibility of Internet technologies allows you to organize such systems with a minimum of costs.

    Also popular now: