Dear Snapshot Serengeti Community: As of yesterday, you all have made over three million classifications. That’s 3,000,000. That’s unbelievable! (For those of you new to the Zooniverse, a classification represents one person looking at one image. Or, to think of it another way, every time the “Finish” button is clicked, another classification is made.)
And, I have to admit, we really weren’t quite ready for your enthusiasm. I’m sure you’ve noticed those progress bars on the Snapshot Serengeti title page. You know, the ones that show Season 1 being done, Season 3 being almost done, and Season 2 two-thirds of the way done. Snapshot Serengeti hasn’t even been up for a week yet! The bad news is that there’s not much classifying left to do in Seasons 1, 2, and 3. The good news is there’s a Season 4 that we’re working on getting ready.
So what are these “Seasons”? They’re roughly 6-month stretches of images, based on Ali’s field seasons. Season 1 ran from June to November, 2010, and involved a lot of experimentation and damaged cameras, as Ali figured out what camera set-up would survive the animals’ curiosity.
Season 2 ran from January to June 2011. During this time, Ali gradually swapped out cameras with infrared flashes to incandescent flashes for nighttime shots. She found that the infrared night images were just too blurry too much of the time. The incandescent flashes give clearer (and color) images, with the downside that we just get one night image instead of a series of three. Also during Season 2, you can see the famed Serengeti migration in many of the images. Every year, over a million wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelles move through the ecosystem, following the rains and new (and presumably yummy) grass. They’re in our study area from about December to April.
Season 3 ran from July 2011 to January 2012. By Season 3, Ali had mastered the camera-trap logistics. (However, we did have some trouble with a hard drive carrying lots of camera trap images that crashed. More on that some other time.)
Season 4, which will be showing up soon, covers February to July, 2012. And Season 5 goes from July to December, 2012. Yes, that’s right: the cameras are snapping away right this minute. Ali will be heading out the Serengeti in early January and will send us back the hard drive with Season 5’s images. We hope to have Season 5 ready for you all by the end of January.
So what now? Well, your amazing speed at classifying means we have the opportunity to refine our algorithm for combining classifications from multiple people, like buying a new car when the mileage on the old one is way too high. We’ve been making some assumptions about how many people need to see each image to be sure that we get the animals identified correctly. These assumptions are based on some beta testing we did, and I feel good about them. But right now, while you’re waiting for Season 4, we’re going to put some of the Season 1 and Season 3 images back in circulation for more classifications. That way, we can get an even better estimate of how many times we really need to show each image – and, in particular, how these estimates vary for easy, medium, hard, and impossible images.
So thank you for all your classifications these past six days. Please keep classifying images even when the progress bars fill up; we will be using your classifications. And we’ll have Season 4 ready for you soon.