Tag Archive | Zooniverse

Amidst the Pandemic, Citizens Create a Boost in Classifications

The following piece was written by OAS Communications Coordinator Ryan Bower for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

We would like to thank everyone who has helped classify Snapshot photos during the pandemic. We are happy to see so many of our volunteers connecting with nature while at home.

We want to share how the pandemic has affected the Snapshot Wisconsin team and offer a look at the surge in classifications. Jennifer Stenglein, Research Scientist at the Wisconsin DNR, shares some encouraging findings about the rise in daily classifications and Zooniverse classifiers during the pandemic.

The Snapshot Team During the Pandemic

“I think Snapshot has been a success story,” said Stenglein. “The effects of COVID-19 haven’t been very detrimental to the team. Change happened, and we adjusted. Some of our workload shifted, but we continued to be Snapshot – just in a slightly different way.”

The Snapshot team is very collaborative. Each week, team members must heavily coordinate with each other to keep photos moving to the next steps and interacting with a volunteer base of over 2,000 people. However, since Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order went into effect in late March, the Snapshot team has been teleworking from home. Stenglein said, “To me, that’s been the biggest change: not having face-time with the team. But the team has transitioned really well to having online meetings.”

There is now a bigger focus on getting photos to Zooniverse for our volunteers to classify. With more people at home, Snapshot photos are being classified at a faster rate than before. This increase in daily classifications is what first alerted the team to the boost.

Investigating the Surge

Stenglein has been a member of the Snapshot team since its beginning in 2013. She leads the scientific program at Snapshot and plays a vital role in turning quantitative data into usable metrics (for example, calculating county fawn-to-doe ratios). Stenglein was the first to offer to investigate the boost in detail, as she was excited to learn more about our volunteers and their behavior.

The first step to investigating this boost was to determine what time frames should be compared. Two time frames were needed: One from before the pandemic and one during the pandemic. “Our Zooniverse volunteers come from all over the world, and the pandemic has affected different places differently. But a lot of our Zooniverse traffic comes from Wisconsin, so we thought selecting a timeframe that was relevant to Wisconsin was a good approach.” Additionally, because Snapshot Wisconsin is a Wisconsin DNR program, a Wisconsin-centric time frame seemed natural.

To narrow down the time frames even more, the team needed to choose a specific date as the delineator between the two time frames. “March 15th correlates to about the time when the Department of Health Services started collecting their stats. It was less than two weeks later that the Safer at Home order went into effect. We felt like this date was a good mix of a time frame important to Wisconsin and a line in the sand. We needed that [break] point between pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic.” At least two months of data was needed to ensure reliability, so the two months prior (pre-pandemic: Jan. 15–March 14, 2020) and the two months after (mid-pandemic: March 15-May 15, 2020) were chosen.

With the time frames set, Stenglein began compiling the data for the analysis. However, before we get to Stenglein’s analysis, it helps to understand the difference between a photo, a trigger and a classification. Those who have classified Snapshot photos before will recall that you were given three photos at a time to classify as a set. Volunteers are asked to classify the set as one whole, meaning they would tag the set as having a red fox if a red fox was present in at least one of the three photos. Each set of photos is called a trigger and gets classified by multiple volunteers before it is retired on Zooniverse to ensure accuracy. Each time a trigger is classified by a volunteer, that is called a classification. Simply said, three photos make a trigger, and a classification is each time a volunteer looks at that trigger before the trigger retires.

The Boost: Analyzed

In total, our volunteers made 460,604 classifications during the pandemic – a huge increase from the 255,208 classifications prior to the pandemic. While each classification doesn’t perfectly translate to the number of triggers retired, this boost is a huge increase in Snapshot’s turnover rate for triggers. Additionally, a total of 1,168 unique classifiers logged in during the pandemic, almost double the number from pre-pandemic.

Classifiers were also, on average, classifying 11.6% more triggers each time they logged on. Once we saw that people were classifying for longer, we wondered what other behavioral shifts have occurred since the pandemic started. One big shift is seen in our established classifiers, or volunteers who were already active on Zooniverse before the pandemic. Stenglein saw that established classifiers were logging in and classifying on significantly more days than before, and they were classifying more triggers each time. However, Stenglein noticed that there were fewer sessions per day. A session is similar to a sitting in that one volunteer could classify triggers over multiple sittings in a single day. Altogether, our established classifiers were classifying more triggers, on more days, but fewer times per day than pre-pandemic.

The most classifications in a single day occured on March 29, less than a week after the Safer at Home order went into effect in Wisconsin. A total of 17,155 triggers were classified on that single day.

An infographic showing changes in volunteer participation

Graphic created by Ryan Bower.

On intuition, Stenglein had an idea to check if there was a difference among the days of the week. Do volunteers classify differently on the weekends than on weekdays? “The weekend/weekday idea was something that I thought of because it was coming up on the weekend. I was thinking, ‘Man, these days all feel the same.’ I got intrigued by this question and wanted to know,” said Stenglein. “But I didn’t even know what the baseline was.”

Stenglein continued, “I was very interested to find out that [normally, pre-pandemic] weekends have much fewer classifications compared to weekdays. I could have hypothesized the opposite and convinced myself.” In fact, the total number of triggers classified rose for both weekends and weekdays, although unequally. We saw an increase of 34% during weekdays (1,507 more triggers classified each weekday) and 86.7% during weekends (2,452 more triggers classified each day of the weekend).

“I was really fascinated that both weekdays and weekend classifications went up [during the pandemic], but when you compare them now, there no longer is a distinction between them. I think that was my favorite finding,” said Stenglein. “With fewer options of things to do on the weekend, perhaps [volunteers] are willing to sit down and spend more time on Zooniverse.”

Stenglein also compared the mid-pandemic period (March 15–May 15, 2020) to a similar time frame from the year prior (March 15–May 15, 2019). Stenglein said, “It helped me to really believe in this boost idea when I looked at the same time period from the previous year and found almost identical results. There is really something unique about this [mid-pandemic] time period.”

Continued Support

Stenglein said, “There is value in communicating this data back to volunteers who are working extra hard right now by classifying photos. You are increasing our capacity to turn over photos and helping us get through our backlog.” In fact, classifiers helped process over 10% of Snapshot’s backlog since the pandemic started.

The Snapshot staff were excited to see this rise in classifications because a quicker turnaround time for photos means more up-to-date data for wildlife management decisions. Continuing to reduce the backlog of photos is an important way that the public (and Snapshot volunteers specifically) can contribute to the project and wildlife monitoring.

“Back in January, we had a meeting about how to deal with unclassified photos. We came up with all these great new ideas, but a pandemic was not among them. The pandemic is never good news, but it provided an opportunity to get through so many unclassified photos in a way that wouldn’t have been possible,” said Stenglein.

But in order to provide key measures to decision makers about animal distribution and abundance, Snapshot needs continued support from the public to keep classifying photos and monitoring wildlife in Wisconsin. Stenglein said, “Snapshot is a volunteer program. There is no Snapshot without its volunteers, and they are what makes Snapshot successful. Citizen science [projects] are a wonderful thing to participate in, and it’s a way to work with others towards research, science and wildlife decision support. People care about helping monitor wildlife and helping the DNR understand the wildlife in their own backyards.”

Stenglein and the Snapshot team want to thank the thousands of volunteers who have helped classify photos during the pandemic. “We are super grateful for the increased traffic and time that people have been putting into Zooniverse.”

Stenglein added, “On a personal note, I’ve been classifying photos with my son, which has been really fun. I’m glad that Snapshot provides an opportunity to see wildlife [while we are stuck indoors].” The Snapshot team encourages classifying photos together with loved ones. Check out the next article in this newsletter to see more ways to stay connected with nature!

June #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a bird that we don’t see too often on our Snapshot Wisconsin cameras: the Ring-necked Pheasant. Brightly colored plumage, such as on this bird, indicates a male, while females are mostly brown and spotted with black. Pheasants can often be found looking for food in open fields and at the edges of woodlands.

ring-necked pheasant

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant JoyKidd for the #SuperSnap nomination!

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Birds of Snapshot Wisconsin

With migration in full swing and breeding season upon us, you may be noticing more feathered friends passing by your Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

While volunteers are not required to identify most birds down to the species level, we know that many volunteers are curious of what exactly is showing up in front of their trail cameras. According to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology around 250 bird species can be regularly found in Wisconsin, though more than 400 have been recorded in the state. Of this diverse variety of birds, there are a few that make frequent appearances on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras.

Check out the below slideshows to learn the ID’s of some of the common species found. More information about the species can be found in their linked names below. Please note the birds are not accurate size ratios.

Species that volunteers are required to ID:

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Learn more about Sandhill Crane, Whooping Crane, Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheasant and Ruffed Grouse.

Common woodpeckers:

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Learn more about Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker.

Common water birds:

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Learn more about Wood Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose and Great Blue Heron.

Common raptors:

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Learn more about Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk.

Other common birds:

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Learn more about American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Woodcock, American Crow, Hermit Thrush, Common Grackle and Red-winged Blackbird.

For those interested in exploring more Snapshot Wisconsin birds, this year the Snapshot Wisconsin team embarked on a new project with all the “other bird” photos showing up in front of the trail cameras. Snapshot Wisconsin Bird Edition is a collaboration between Snapshot Wisconsin and the Wisconsin DNR Natural Heritage Conservation. The goal is to identify all of Snapshot Wisconsin’s bird images to a species level and to look for evidence of breeding. Breeding observations will be reported to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II and observations of uncommon, rare, or endangered species will be reported to the Natural Heritage Conservation. Learn more and get started at birds.snapshotwisconsin.org.

April #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a juvenile bald eagle from Dodge County. This camera location had so many great bird photos and #SuperSnap nominations that it was difficult to pick one!

Once this immature eagle is fully grown, it will have a wingspan of up to 7ft! Females usually lay their eggs within the first couple weeks of April, so in the next month there should be plenty of eagle chicks hatching. Eagles can often be seen soaring above bodies of open water, searching for fish to eat.

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A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant eaglecon for the #SuperSnap nomination!

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

March #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) from Vilas county making its way down a path of prairie flowers. It may seem surprising, but these stout, ambling creatures can often be found at the tip-top of trees snacking away on bark, stems, leaves, fruits, and other springtime buds.

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A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant LynnGrace for the #SuperSnap nomination!

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Maps of the Zooniverse

The following piece was written by OAS Communications Coordinator AnnaKathryn Kruger for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

The opportunity to classify photos of wildlife from across Wisconsin draws a diverse array of individuals to our Zooniverse page. Some volunteers are trail camera hosts themselves and enjoy classifying photos from other camera sites. Zooniverse also offers this opportunity to those who are unable to host a camera but still wish to participate in the project.

The maps here were created using Google Analytics data, which can anonymously record information about users who access a webpage, such as their nearest city. This data shows us that Snapshot Wisconsin reaches an audience far beyond Wisconsin, and even beyond the United States! In total, volunteers from 696 cities across 41 countries have interacted with the Snapshot Wisconsin Zooniverse page since 2016. 190 of those cities are in Wisconsin.

Each dot represents just one city, regardless of the number of individuals who accessed the site in that location. For example, the dot for the city of Madison could represent thousands of users. Zooming in on Wisconsin, we see that many dots are centered around the most populous areas, such as Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago. This pattern can be attributed to the fact that these areas also host the highest concentration of suburbs.

Regardless of the volunteer’s location, each classification we receive is important to the success of Snapshot Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Map

World Map

Evaluating Project Participation Through Zooniverse

The following piece was written by OAS Communications Coordinator AnnaKathryn Kruger for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

One of the easiest ways to participate in Snapshot Wisconsin is by classifying photos through a website called Zooniverse. Zooniverse is a crowdsourcing service that is accessible to anyone, anywhere, and the site has hosted Snapshot Wisconsin since 2016. Snapshot Wisconsin’s most prolific Zooniverse volunteer has contributed over 65,000 classifications to the project’s dataset. To date, 1.9 million trail camera photos have been processed through Zooniverse, and more than 7,500 different individuals have registered to participate.

Zooniverse volunteers play a pivotal role in Snapshot Wisconsin. Analyzing volunteer participation gives staff a better idea of how to effectively engage volunteers and can also offer researchers a look at how patterns in participation relate to the overall quality of the data acquired from the platform.

In the interest of exploring a quantitative assessment of volunteer participation in Snapshot Wisconsin through Zooniverse, researchers conducted a Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) of our volunteers. LPA can be used to organize a given sample size of people into groups based on observable variables, such as user activity over time. Through this, researchers were able to ascertain how many different groups of people exist in the sample, which individuals belong to which group, and what characteristics are unique to each group. This allowed researchers to hone in on specific patterns in user engagement.

Researchers identified measurable variables unique to each volunteer and their activity on Zooniverse between November 2017 and February 2019. These included the number of days each volunteer was active, time elapsed between active days, and the amount of time volunteers spent on the site on active days. From this, researchers parsed volunteers into three profiles: temporary, intermittent and persistent.

Volunteer Groups

Profiles of Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer participation on Zooniverse

Temporary volunteers are those who exhibited rigorous participation, but only for a short period of time. Intermittent are those characterized by the significant amount of time elapsed between a relatively small number of active days. Persistent are those who demonstrated high levels of activity across the entire period examined.

Measures of accuracy specific to each group revealed that temporary volunteers demonstrate lower accuracy in their classifications compared to intermittent volunteers. Though intermittent volunteers tended to allow more time to go by between active days, the consistent practice ultimately made their classifications more accurate.

In this instance, we may turn to an old adage: practice makes perfect. It comes as no surprise that practice and accuracy are correlated, and that volunteers become better at classifying photos with more time spent doing so. In the graphic on the right, all four photos are of porcupines, though they are of varying degrees of difficulty when it comes to classification. Though classifying photos like these may be tricky at first, over time certain characteristics begin to stand out more readily – a porcupine may be identified by their lumbering gait, or the way that their quills appear from different angles and in different light. The more frequently one sees these traits, the easier they become to identify. Volunteers who participate at any level, whether temporary, intermittent, or persistent, are of great value to the project, and the more time spent on Zooniverse, the more likely that the classifications assigned to each photo are accurate.

Porcupine

Citizen science is an integral part of the Snapshot Wisconsin project, and is in fact core to its mission, which is to rally the knowledge and resources of citizens across Wisconsin and throughout the world to build a comprehensive and highly accurate portrait of Wisconsin wildlife. No two Zooniverse volunteers are quite the same, and each individual informs our understanding of how citizen science can be utilized effectively in research. No matter how one chooses to participate, participation alone brings us closer to our goal.

January #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a mother black bear (Ursus americanus) and her cub from Marathon County. Black bear cubs are born in mid-January with an average litter size of three to four cubs. However, litters of as many as six cubs have been reported, certainly enough to keep mom on her toes!

A huge thanks to Zooniverse and Snapshot WI volunteer Swamp-eye for the #SuperSnap nomination!

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Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

December #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features six sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) from Waupaca County. Did you know there are many different titles for a group of cranes? This group could be referred to as a “dance,” a “construction,” or a “swoop”. Sandhill cranes migrate across our state every year and can often be spotted in open prairies and marshes.

Thank you to Zooniverse volunteer Swamp-eye for nominating this photo!

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Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

November #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a tom turkey dressed up in his best bow-tie wattle and ready for Thanksgiving dinner! Turkeys use their wattles for a variety of reasons. This loose skin around their neck allows them to expel extra heat during the hot summer months. Male turkeys (toms) also use their wattle to attract female turkeys (hens) when blood rushes to the area, causing the wattle to turn a bright red color. If a turkey is frightened, blood may also rush out of their wattle, causing it to turn blue.

A tom turkey

Thank you to all our Zooniverse volunteers for nominating their #SuperSnaps. Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.