Crowdsourcing the search for tigers

As part of a conservation program, researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK are seeking to count, track and study the behaviour of tigers around the world. To do that they have asked the global community of internet users to assist. Given the popularity of tigers and the support for tiger conservation efforts this is likely to be a very popular initiative to help the scientific community and one which could provide a model not just for animal conservation but also for other scientific crowdsourcing initiatives which have popular appeal. Those who choose to work on the project will be volunteers.

The project team points out that a Google search for tiger identifies 139 million results. Some of these are for real tigers but many are not. In order to catalogue the real tigers the researchers are asking project participants to help go through these 139 web sites seeking photographs of real tigers. The real tiger photographs will be catalogued along with data as to date, time, location, etc. This will result in a database of photos of real tigers. The team hopes that facial recognition software will be able to work on the database and identify the number of distinct individual tigers that exist in the world today.

Although the idea of sorting through more than 139 million photographs and web pages, because new photographs of tigers taken by tourists, locals, biologists, and others are being added to the internet all the time, seems somewhat fantastical, if the project attracts say 300,000 people then each one has to review less than 500 web pages and pictures. Given that many will be about such things as football teams (the Hamilton Tiger Cats), stuffed toys, and pet cats called Tiger the enormous task becomes very manageable. GallonDaily applauds the research team for their creative and almost zero environmental approach to tracking tigers and encourages others to be just as creative when seeking solutions to big data challenges.

Details of the project, known as Wildsense, can be found at http://www.wildsense.org  The app which powers the project has just been released for Ipad.

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