OSB archive
OSB archive

Safari, so good

Pete Wilton

Have you been on virtual safari yet?

If you haven't then you should visit Snapshot Serengeti, a new citizen science project asking online volunteers to identify animals in millions of photos taken by camera traps across Serengeti National Park.

The project is a collaboration between biologists at the University of Minnesota and the Zooniverse project, led by Oxford University and Adler Planetarium.

As Oxford University's Chris Lintott explained to BBC Nature humans are far better than computers at identifying species from images and by getting people to study millions of photos scientists hope to get a better understanding of what the animals are getting up to when they're not looking.

The project launched on 12 December and the response has been phenomenal.

'For days after launch volunteers were classifying more than 10 images a second - 50 a second at peak times,' Rob Simpson of Oxford University and the Zooniverse tells me. 'These people have come from the Zooniverse community and from Facebook - it's been amazing to watch the reaction spread around the globe.'

Snapshot Serengeti is now at 3.7 million classifications and counting with over 70,000 people visiting and 21,000 people registering with the site. You can see just some of the amazing animal photos people have found already here. The team are currently working hard to add more images to the site and are already moving on to season 4 and 5 [more about the seasons here].

But that isn't all that's going on with the Zooniverse just now:

The Andromeda Project, which is searching for clusters and galaxies in images, is homing in on its target of over 1,000,000 classifications (now 950,000 and counting). This means that each image has been searched by 80 people, giving scientists excellent data on what's out there.

There'll be more from The Andromeda Project in 2013 with the Hubble Space Telescope currently taking more images to add to the site.

Then there's the Milky Way Project: Clouds that has only launched today and uses data from ESA's Herschel telescope to find dark clouds in images of our galaxy. You'll get the idea from this Milky Way Blog post.

So whether you love animals, galaxies, or cloud-spotting, the Zooniverse really does have something for everyone.