Thursday, 17 October 2013

Citizen Scientist

So, here I was, looking for a 'distraction.' Something to do, which would be a break from study and ministry stuff. Something I could easily drop in and out of. Something I could do for as little or as long as I wanted.

I thought about getting a raspberry pi, relearning to program and creating a device for monitoring the temperature of the home brew. But I haven't got round to that (and we already own things which will do the job perfectly adequately.

I though about learning a musical instrument, but having never really had the notion before, found the idea a bit daunting. Also I didn't want to turn into one of those guitar strumming ministers who want to play in the praise band every week (shudders!).

I knew I didn't want to have a pile of reading to do. Yes, there are many classics I haven't read at all or since I was a child. But when my current job - student - pretty much entails reading all day, the last thing I want to do is read some more. And I love reading.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Spot suggested Snapshot Serengeti. Basically, there's 250 camera traps placed around the Serengeti, to monitor where prey and predators are and to see if prey will avoid good grazing where there is predators. Now, back in the days of film, the scientist would be getting 36 frames per camera. These days, maybe 300, 400, 500 per SD card?

So, the idea is the citizen scientist goes through the photos and, as best they can, identifies the animals present, how many there are and what they are doing. It's pretty straightforward to do and there's guides to help with the ID.

This will flag up the photos of interest for the researchers, freeing their time up to do just that, rather than sort through the 'grass moved' (i.e. nothing there) photos. From the citizen scientist's point-of-view, it's helping with important research and you might even identify a Dik Dik.

The project is part of a wider crowd sourced project, called Zooniverse. Its projects include transcribing ship logs and the Oxyrhynchus collection. So, why not have a look and see how you could contribute to important research, all from the comfort of your home.

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