Hey everyone – I just wanted to introduce you to one of the Zooniverse’s newest members, Darren McRoy, who is our new Community Builder.
As Community Builder, Darren serves as the Zooniverse’s liaison with its citizen science community, including Snapshot Serengeti. He also assists with Zooniverse’s general communications efforts and is working closely with designers and developers on the next generation of the Talk discussion system.
Darren is a 2010 graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and has a background in journalism and digital communications. He is a resident of the northern Chicago suburbs, and enjoys golf, volleyball, fiction writing, gaming, and participating in a variety of online communities.
Darren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and posts on Talk under the handle “DZM.” Please feel free to get in touch with him if you have any thoughts, comments, questions, etc about how the Zooniverse communicates with its community — you!
I’m in the Zooniverse!
The Snapshot Serengeti science team has been a bit remiss at blog posts over the summer. Meredith has been battling tsetses in Serengeti for her first ever Serengeti field season, and I’ve been kept busy traveling on three continents – between finishing my dissertation, crewing for my partner in the world hot air balloon championships, and…moving to Oxford to join the Zooniverse!
We’re still working out exactly what my job title and job description are (details!), but now that the dissertation is officially finished and I’m settling in here, expect more posts to come!
Snapshot Team Update
Apologies for such sporadic blog posts recently. We’ve all been quite busy. I successfully defended my dissertation last week. And then I enjoyed the true spirit of Minnesota for the next couple of snowy days, getting to catch up with friends and colleagues whom I haven’t seen in quite some time. But I’m not quite done! I need to make some minor revisions to the dissertation text before submitting it, and this has been occupying much of my time this week, as I need to get it all done before the end of the month – and preferably earlier if I want to enjoy the holidays.
Ali, meanwhile, is deep in analyses of the Snapshot Serengeti data gathered to date. We’re still working on the time issues. If you’ve got crazy Python and/or SQL skills and some free time in the next few weeks, drop us a note. A little help would accelerate Ali’s research while I’m busy finishing up my dissertation work.
And Craig’s diving into the next round of National Science Foundation proposals. The preliminary proposals are due in mid-January and an accepted proposal would restart long-term funding for Snapshot Serengeti starting in 2015. The preliminary proposals are relatively short, but in some ways that makes them harder than the longer ones – we not only have to concisely describe the research, but also convince the reviewers that citizen science yields high-quality data.
While some ecologists are still skeptical of citizen science, more and more are coming to accept it as a valid and valuable way to gather and analyze science data. The astronomy field may be a bit ahead of ecology in this respect, but we’re glad they’re paving the way. And did you hear? The Zooniverse was awarded a $1.8 million Global Impact Award by Google that’s going to allow them to scale up their citizen science platform to host many more projects. I only wonder what citizen scientists will do in the (perhaps not too distant) future, when they have hundreds of citizen science projects to select among. How will you choose which ones to try?
Meet the Meta-Zebra
It’s advent, and that means it’s time for the Zooniverse Advent Calendar. Last year Snapshot Serengeti itself was hiding behind one the doors of the calendar – that means we’re nearly a year old! Today we appear on the 2013 calendar with this post, and the meta-zebra. It’s a thank you to everyone that’s been supporting us for the last year: a zebra made from zebra. Naturally.
This poster was created using a pool of more than 16,000 zebra identified by the Snapshot Serengeti community. We then take a nice, simple capture of a Zebra and use a wonderful piece of software (called Andreamosaic) to generate this poster for you all. It is extremely high resolution (and 70 MB big!) so if you want to, you can print it out to be several feet across! Below is the zebra’s nose.
It’s just a small token of our thanks for a great year. In 2014 we’ll be back with season 7. We also plan to have more fun to share before December is over. Stay tuned!
[Download the full poster here – warning this file is 70 MB big]
It’s been an exciting and exhausting past couple days. I’ve been at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, chatting with Zooniverse developers, scientists from other Zooniverse projects, educators and social scientists, and citizen science volunteers. There have been presentations on the history of the Zooniverse, starting with the original Galaxy Zoo, and on why people say they participate in citizen science projects. We’ve talked about ways to process the huge amount of data that comes out of the projects, and how to make translations of projects into other languages easier. We’ve seen that for some projects, many people do few classifications, and for others, few people do many classifications. And we’ve consumed coffee and food, and just gotten to know one another. (I discovered a scientist on another project went to my alma mater, graduated a year after me, and that we know many of the same people!)
One of the things I’m most excited about for Snapshot Serengeti is a set of visualization and analysis tools that the Zooniverse team is developing. They’ve started on a nice set of tools for Galaxy Zoo already, and Snapshot Serengeti is well-positioned to have tools added next. The tools will allow you to do things like map where images were taken, look at trends over time of species, and make some simple graphs. Is there anything you’d like to do easily with Snapshot Serengeti data? Now is the time to let us know. Feel free to leave ideas in the comments.
This workshop has also been fun because we’ve gotten a sneak peak at what lies down the Zooniverse road… a project called SpaceWarps is coming soon… further down the road, we have plankton, condors, kelp, sunspots… plus more data for Andromeda Project, Notes from Nature, and… Snapshot Serengeti!
It turns out to be true: there IS a new hard drive in Minnesota and it has all the Season 5 images on it. On Friday, Lora Orme and I started loading those images onto the supercomputers so we can start processing them. You’ll have to forgive the Zooniverse for stealing me away these past couple days and keeping me from working on the Season 5 images. But it’s just a small delay; I think we’ll have Season 5 online within the month.
Notes from Nature
Next week, Zooniverse is holding their annual meeting of project science teams. Since Ali and Craig are both still in Tanzania, I’m going to be the only Snapshot Serengeti representative there, but I’m super excited to go. I went to this meeting last year, while we were still developing Snapshot Serengeti, and it was both really fun (the Zooniverse team in Chicago are awesome) and really useful. Since Zooniverse already had a dozen other projects live, I got a lot of advice from their science team members about what to expect when the Snapshot Serengeti went live, and also tips on analyzing the large data set that results from the project. This year, I’ll be one of the people giving tips to the scientists of developing projects.
Speaking of which, if you haven’t already, you should go check out Notes from Nature, which launched this week. It’s a bit different from Snapshot Serengeti in that the species in the picture is already known, but what they don’t have is the meta-data (the date the specimen was collected, where it was collected, etc.) You help out by entering this information off of labels, many of which are hand-written and so hard to use OCR on. They have both a botany collection and an insect collection that they need help with. And there’s a Notes from Nature blog.