Crowdsourcing Sharks: a citizen science success story

Conserving the environment and its organisms works most effectively when managers and scientists have a lot of environmental information. However, some of the world’s most vulnerable animals, like the sand tiger shark, are also the most secretive. Luckily for these scary looking predators, amateur scientists can be an agent of change.

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Can you figure out what species this is? Computers can

Protecting wild animals requires far more data than scientists could collect alone, so researchers often enlist the help of amateur “citizen scientists” to help identify animals in photos. However, with more and more large scale projects that need help from citizen scientists, it is taking an increasingly long time to process all of the photos from any individual study. Marco Willi from the University of Minnesota and his colleagues thought there might be a way to speed things up: by getting computers to identify most of the easy animals, and leaving humans to figure out the extra hard ones. 

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For urban snails, yellow is the new pink

Pavement, smog, and lack of shade can increase temperatures in cities by up to 6ºF above the surrounding rural and suburban areas. We know the higher temperatures directly impact many species of animals, but is it possible that they could also affect the course of evolution and change the physiology of future generations? To answer this question, researchers from the Netherlands used a popular citizen science platform to gather data about the appearance of snails throughout a wide range of habitats.

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This website helps ordinary people collect data to save snakes

With a limited amount of time and money available for conservation efforts, it’s critical to know which species are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, that assessment requires a virtually impossible amount of data. Citizen scientists from North and South Carolina have filled this critical gap by collecting 7,684 snake observations from every county in the two states over the course of eight years. Here’s what they found.

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Under a wave of global change, lakes remain placid

Swimmers, boaters, and fishing enthusiasts care about keeping our lakes healthy. As climate and patterns of land development change, scientists are diving into the challenge of understanding how these interacting forces impact water quality. In a recently published paper, researchers assembled a database of thousands of lakes across the northeastern United States to address this question. They found that water quality has remained surprisingly stable over the past twenty years.

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