Be a Master of the Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti


Face to face with a buffalo

Zooniverse is a spectrum of websites that allow thousand of users to participate in hands on research literally all over the universe – from Hubble Telescope images to the depths of the ocean. Today we are focusing on Snapshot Serengeti because they recently uploaded a huge batch of photos that need classifying, giving kids – and everyone – a look at the wilds of Africa and its species as they move about in their natural habitats. They explain, “All over the Serengeti, scientists have set up motion sensitive camera traps. The camera snaps a few shots anytime something moves in front of it.”

It’s not just a good family activity - it’s helping scientists understand which animals are doing what and when in this part of Africa. Researchers could never view and classify the content of the millions of photographs taken by these cameras, so Snapshot Serengeti users are truly contributing to scientific research. It also happens to be fun.

It takes a few clicks to get where you need to go. First, go to Zooniverse, then scroll down and click on the Snapshot Serengeti box. You will need to create an account with a username and password. Then they will ask you if you want to take part – once  you click on that button, it will show you a list of the classification projects – called seasons – the newest one is Season 4. Once you select a season, take the tutorial that shows you how to view photographs and classify all of the creatures that appear in each one.

Snapshot Serengeti has tools to help identify animals that might not be easily recognized and also allows you to message, tweet and pin images on Pinterest. Often the images come in a set of three (there’s a “play” button) so you can see if the animals are moving or standing still, solitary or interacting. You follow prompts to identify and record what’s in the image and then you move onto the next one.

Zebras on the move

Zebras on the move

Once you start, it’s hard to stop. In the process of tagging about 50 photos I categorized gazelles, wildebeests, zebras, buffalo, elephants and what I think was a honey badger. Sometimes all you get is a wisp of tail or a glimpse of snout but most of the time you can still figure out what it belongs to by using the tools. There is also a locator button so you can see where in the park the photo was taken.

Sometimes the camera is triggered by a breeze and all you see is a savannah or tall grass – but even many of those photos are beautiful and worth sharing.

Serengeti Vista

Serengeti grasslands

There is a “nothing here” button that lets you categorize those photos.

The first few times you finish tagging each picture a message pops up saying: “Good job! The image you successfully classified was taken by one of over 200 motion triggered cameras set-up around Serengeti National Park.”


Grazing wildebeests

If you see something really exciting on Snapshot Serengeti, send your photo to us on Twitter @TumblehomeLearn - we’d love to see it!

We’ll be back next Saturday with more from the Zooniverse.

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  2. [...] you haven’t registered for a Zooniverse account previously (see our posts about Snapshot Serengeti and Seafloor Explorer), you need to do that first. You are presented with multiple, sequential [...]