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Detecting the right number of animals

This past spring, four seniors in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology took a class called “Analysis of Populations,” taught by Professor Todd Arnold. Layne Warner, Samantha Helle, Rachel Leuthard, and Jessica Bass decided to use Snapshot Serengeti data for their major project in the course.

Their main question was to ask whether the Snapshot Serengeti images are giving us good information about the number of animals in each picture. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I’ve been exploring whether it’s possible to correctly identify the species in each picture, but I haven’t yet looked at how well we do with the actual number of animals. So I’m really excited about their project and their results.

Since the semester is winding up, I thought we’d try something that some other Zooniverse projects have done: a video chat*. So here I am talking with Layne, Samantha, and Rachel (Jessica couldn’t make it) about their project. And Ali just got back to Minnesota from Serengeti, so she joined in, too.

Here are examples of the four types of covariates (i.e. potential problems) that the team looked at: Herd, Distance, Period, Vegetation

Herd: animals are hard to count because they are in groups


Distance: animals are hard to count because they are very close to or very far from the camera


Period: animals are hard to count because of the time of day


Vegetation: animals are hard to count because of surrounding vegetation



* This was our first foray into video, so please excuse the wobbly camera and audio problems. We’ll try to do better next time…