Do a science with Snapshot Serengeti

12 August 2013

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I can tell the difference between a Thompson’s gazelle and a Grant’s gazelle from the back quarter of a leg.

Well, now I can, anyway, since starting my obsession with Snapshot Serengeti.

The University of Minnesota Lion Project has 225 motion-activated cameras across Tanzania, waiting to capture animal activity as it happens. Of course, this means there are thousands upon thousands of images to sort through. Differentiating between waving grass and three zebras in the middle distance is one of those things humans are very good at, and computer image recognition software is not.

Enter crowd sourcing!

Through an easy to use little website, we can all help identify animals in the motion capture photos for the researchers. There is a great tutorial to walk you through the simple system, and then off you go. The opportunities for older children are obvious – learn about what the animals look like and get a window into what they’re doing in the wild.

The images are strangely intimate – my cheetah face above is from my first go at identifying. I’ve seen a crowd of hippos at night, a giraffe’s chest backlit by the setting sun, a herd of wildebeest napping right in front of the lens, gazelles running past.

Thankfully, the project met their Indie-go-go funding goal with less than 24 hours to go, so we can continue to peer into the lives of these animals for awhile longer.

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