The University of Oxford Needs Your Help Playing Guess Who with the Serengeti's Wildlife

By Andrew Tarantola on at

Between the exotic illnesses, oppressive heat, and the fact that you're no longer the top predator, studying the Serengeti National Reserves' plethora of fauna is a challenge unto itself. However, through the University of Oxford's most recent citizen scientist program, you can help researchers better understand the region's complex web of interdependent animal systems.

It's called Snapshot Serengeti, one of the University's dozen crowd-sourced Zooniverse programs — others include studies in astronomy, climatology, biology, and humanities. Researchers have set up camera traps, hundreds of them over an area of 5,700 sq miles, to capture three-image sets of anything that happens to walk by. These traps have generated a huge database of images over the previous three seasons, far more than any single research team could comb through. But that's where you come in.

By signing on to the Snapshot Serengeti site, anyone on the Internet can help dig through this mountanous pile of data, identifying what and how many kinds of animals are in each shot. The system helps users that can't tell a Grant's Gazelle from a Thompson's with an intuitive reductionist layout that identifies the fauna based on marking pattern, horn style, and build. It's a surprisingly addictive and fun way to kill time. [Snapshot Serengeti via BBC News]