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Have you tried Zooniverse? Species360 team volunteers for science

A favorite image from the Wildwatch Burrowing Owl project at Zooniverse. In early March, Species360 staff completed over 4,000 classifications in one three-hour volunteer session.

Looking for a great way to help scientific research? Check out the many projects at Zooniverse.

Each year, the Species360 team gets together to tackle a volunteer project. The event normally takes place during our annual staff meeting when those working in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia trek to our home office in the United States. Past projects have included cleaning up trash and toxins along the Mississippi river, removing invasive plants in key migratory zones of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and removing rocks and noxious weeds from exhibits at nearby Como Zoo.

2021 has not been normal, and COVID-19 meant we couldn’t get together in person. So we searched for a volunteer project that we could do together online – and we found Zooniverse!  This innovative online platform allows researchers to crowdsource their work.  Volunteers can help with projects in areas such as music and art, medicine, history, language, biology, space, and more.   

Species360 team members work together on classifying images from a camera trap during a volunteer session for Zooniverse.

A slide from the Notes From Nature – Terrestrial Parasite Tracker project.

The Species360 team broke into small groups and worked together on nine different projects including:

  • identifying frog species in Australia from their calls,
  • counting and identifying bottom fish from Hawaiian video footage,
  • looking at slides to get red blood cell counts from monkeys,
  • transcribing notes from parasite and invertebrate collection cards (some as far back as the 1930s!),
  • watching graylag geese in nest boxes to classify their activity,
  • identifying animals from camera traps in the Serengeti, and
  • teaching the Mars rover how to classify Martian terrain. 

Yes, it was 100% as much fun as it sounds! Altogether, the team made over 4,000 classifications in just three hours — and several of us are hooked and going back to do more. Try it!

The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research, and its projects span a wide range of cool topics. This research is made possible by volunteers — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Their goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise.

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