Gorongosa WildCam – Which species cares more?

by Alex Burr

Gorongosa National Park is located in Mozambique, Africa. Before a civil war destroyed the natural terrain and pushed many of the native species out, Gorongosa was a beautiful wild place. Now locals in Mozambique and many people like us across the world are trying to preserve the area and research the native species there. WildCam Gorongosa is a set of images from motion-detecting cameras located in the park and data from those images  that help scientists do research on the species living there. From this online platform, we developed research questions that could be answered with that data.

We took these questions and as a team, decided that our single collective research question was to see if elephants or monkeys would stay in groups more as it was the most interesting and complex question our team thought we could research most effectively in this time span. We thought that elephants would tend to stay in groups and subsequently be photographed more in groups than monkeys would because elephants form deeper emotional bonds with each other than monkeys do with other monkeys (Defenders of Wildlife).

To gather evidence for our hypothesis, we went to WildCam Gorongosa and filtered out the irrelevant data to our project, such as what season it was or the distance to the nearest water source. Next we categorized the number of elephants and monkeys photographed into pictures of that species alone or in groups. From there we were able to get precise data on the total number of each species photographed alone and in groups, and therefore derive the percentage of elephants and monkeys photographed in groups. Overall, elephants were found in groups 45.4% of the time compared to monkeys being found in groups 39.3% of the time, therefore elephants were about 5% more likely to be found in groups than monkeys in Gorongosa National Park, according to our research.

To explain this trend, our group did more research on the behaviors of both monkeys and elephants native to Mozambique, Africa. We found that young monkeys stay with their mothers for a much shorter time than young elephants do: 3 weeks to 3 years, respectively. Additionally, we learned that besides deep emotional and familial bonds, elephants stay in packs to protect their calves who can be prey to lions and other large predators (Defenders of Wildlife). On the contrary, vervet monkeys have a strict hierarchy that dictates that males must leave the pack after childhood and become part of a new pack, seemingly to prove themselves as adults (African Wildlife Foundation). For these reasons, elephants are more likely to be found in groups than monkeys.

While the research our group did supports our findings, our data set was limited; we analyzed only two species. To further our research, we could see how elephant and monkey groups compare to the groups of other species living in Gorongosa. Additionally, we could compare elephant and monkey groups of Gorongosa to other wild places’ groups to get a larger data set for our original research question.

Although the data set may have been limited, I enjoyed working on this question. This research project has not only taught me more about Gorongosa National Park, it has also expanded my knowledge and interest in the behaviors of wild animals. Research like this being done by people across the world is helping revitalize this once war-torn national park, and furthering humankind’s understanding of species’ behavior as well. It is important to study places like Gorongosa National Park now, so that we can learn as much as possible about Earth’s wildlife before humanity destroys another beautiful place.

 

African Wildlife Foundation http://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/vervet-monkey

Defenders of Wildlife http://www.defenders.org/elephant/basic-facts

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Evolution of Computers: With Your Help!

by Tahye Pitter

As humans evolve and become more sophisticated, they invent more advanced technology. Currently we are at the verge of creating more intelligent cameras, that are capable of recognizing certain animals and classifying them. Pretty cool huh? Zooniverse is a citizen science web portal for people powered research where hundreds of thousands of volunteers get to contribute to a certain research project. When I first found out about this website, I was thrilled. I’ve always wanted to contribute to a greater cause especially in the form of science. Me and my partner stumbled upon one of the projects called Zen of Dragons. Basically, A group of researchers are trying to develop this software called Odomatic where it automatically identifies dragonflies and damselflies from images.

From making this software, it can be incorporated into websites and apps designed to identify insects. However, these researchers need to train the computers to recognize these dragonflies by using lots of images. Obviously, these researchers can’t do it alone, so that’s where they depend on us, the public, to help identify these weird-like flying creatures.

After learning all about this, me and my partner were fascinated so we decided to give it a try. As soon as we joined the project, we were brought to a page where it had an image of an Odonate(s) and a cursor. Simply, all we had to do was create a box around the Odonate(s) and identify its head and abdomen. After that, we were brought to a different image of an Odonate(s) and repeated that same process.

zen of dragons.pngThe cool thing about this project is that you can do however many you want to! You can do one…two…ten…or even a thousand, either way, you’re still contributing to this greater cause. That feeling of helping, being useful, making a difference, is a feeling I won’t get tired of. Even if this specific project doesn’t particularly interest you, there are still plenty of more projects out there that you can contribute to on Zooniverse. There are tons of projects out there, ranging from history to arts to biology to medicine to nature, so I think you will definitely find a project that sparks a little bit of interest. Not only are you getting satisfaction out of this, but you are also impacting the world. That, I believe, is something to be proud of.

About Exoplanet Explorers

by Joseph Berry III

Zooniverse is a website in which many people can explore many different projects of many different subjects that others have created due to their interests in the subject. Exploring these projects and using them can increase your interest in certain subjects and even help out the creators’ research. The Zooniverse project I chose is called Exoplanet Explorers, where you can learn more about a process of finding other exoplanets orbiting discovered stars. This project has plenty of information and it will help increase your interest in exoplanets and the ways they are discovered.

The project finds and uses data based on the change in brightness of stars over time to determine whether or not a planet is orbiting the star. In the project, you can look at different pieces of data and graphs (known as lightcurves), and based on their content you choose whether or not that star seems like it could have a transiting planet. For example, if a lightcurve graph has multiple dips or too many points, then that graph can’t be used as solid proof that the star has an orbiting planet.

This team behind Exoplanet Explorers is trying to find exoplanets by measuring stars brightnesses overtime to gather more data about exoplanets, so they can find comparisons and contrasts from them (according to the project’s about section). If a lightcurve has one dip at “phase 0” and no more, then it’s fairly likely that the star the lightcurve is based on has a planet orbiting around it. The project is trying to find more lightcurves with this description, and this project lets you help with that, by showing you lightcurves for different stars, and letting you choose whether or not they seem similar to the description previously mentioned.

This project gives plenty of information as to what makes an accurate lightcurve and what doesn’t. The project explains how this method for finding exoplanets works, and the terms used in the method well. The project, while seeming to have little content at first glance, actually taught me plenty of new things about this subject, and made me more interested in exoplanets overall.

I think that this project is very well put together and well organized. In fact, it does so well that their volunteers have done over one million of classifications, and from these the team behind the project have discovered over 100 possible exoplanets! They have many volunteers classifying possible exoplanets every day, and they have a huge page in the about —> team section dedicated to thanking all of the volunteers, of which there are thousands of. They have plenty of content and information in this project, and I can tell that they put a lot of time and effort into this project. Exoplanet Explorers is a very useful project if you want to learn about a method of exoplanet hunting, or if you want to participate in helping the team find potential planets.

AmazonCam Tambopata

by Enrique Colita

The Zooniverse project I chose to explore is AmazonCam Tambopata. In this project volunteers identify animal(s) in a picture taken by a camera in the Peruvian Amazon. These animals are fairly easy to identify as the areas covered by these cameras had recurring appearances of animals. There is a checklist that you will be given to identify the animal(s) that you will see in the pictures. All the data is collected from two Peruvian rainforests (Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park). These rainforests are protected, meaning that there will be no tampering with any cameras put in the rainforests other than the animals.

This is one of the biggest animal monitoring groups in all of South America. This network of cameras, on a huge trail system known as ‘The Big Grid’, shows the movements of wildlife throughout the two rainforests: Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park. The cameras will be put out on each part of ‘the grid’ all year long. It will be able to monitor the movements of animals, what they eat, and how many animals travel in a groups and their numbers.

PERU-MANU-NATIONAL-PARK-MAP(http://www.journalriskcrisis.com/peru-manu-national-park-sets-biodiversity-record/)

 

tambopata2http://www.go2peru.com/peru_guide/tambopata/tambopata_map.htm)

 

The top predators In the peruvian rainforests would be the jaguars. The jaguars live in very large and uneasy territory, but it is still very easy to identify the jaguars out in the rainforests. The pictures help to show how the animals travel, whether it be in pairs, packs, or if they travel with their cubs. It helps to determine how long the animals live and much more!

0403-Jaguar-rainforest-Manu(http://andrebaertschi.photoshelter.com/image/I0000KoLuxHyvZTA )

Overall, I believe that this is a good project for people to participate in. It’s fairly easy to identify animals (with the help of tools if it gets harder to identify animals or if the picture is blurry). You learn more on how different animals move throughout these two forests. It’s really important because it is one of the last of the “natural frontiers” of earth, so this project raises awareness of these animals’ homes and helps preserve it.  

Learn more an help out the project at :

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/rainforestexpeditions/amazoncam-tambopata/about/research – contributed by Mark Bowler, Daniel Couceiro, and Mathias Tobler

Research team: Diego Balbuena and Gaby Orihuela

http://www.perunature.com/wiredamazon/

Full team: Dr. Mark Bowler, Daniel Couceiro, Mathias Tobler, Paloma Alcazar, Juan Grados, Dr. George Olah, Aaron Pomerantz, Dr. Vuran Swamy, Dr. Donald Brightsmith

Spare Time Comet Hunting

By: Iryna Blazhevych

Imagine discovering comets in our universe from the comfort of your home. Comet Hunters is one of the many projects on Zooniverse where main belt comets are identified and differentiated from asteroids. Main Belt comets were not long ago discovered in our universe. They are located in the Solar System’s asteroid belt and have traits typically assigned to comets, such as a tail. The reason this project exists, is because only ten of these main belt comets have been discovered up to date, which leads to a very limited understanding of them.

With the Zooniverse platform, anyone can help with the discovery of these main belt comets. All volunteers need to do is create a Zooniverse account and then they are all set to identify and analyze the photos of comets and asteroids given to them. Volunteers will either classify new or old photos of the asteroids. When classifying the asteroids, all volunteers need to do is look at two side by side images taken in space and decide whether the asteroids are visible in the middle of the photo. If the answer to the previous question is yes, then the volunteer must determine whether or not the asteroids have tails. With such easy steps, volunteers can get through a classification in under a minute. There is also an option in which when the volunteers are done classifying the images, they can talk to other volunteers that did the same classification. This can be a useful tool in both finding new observation in the images and debated on what the right classification is to get the most valid answer.

Screenshot (1)

The classifications that volunteers do are not in vain. With them, astronomers in the Comet Hunters team can identify and track these main belt comets. When a new potential main belt comet is chosen, it is observed with both ground and space telescopes, and determined whether or not it is a main belt comet. With this information, the origins of our Solar System can be studied, since asteroids and comets are leftover masses from the creation of the planets. It will also increase the discovery rate of main belt comets in the future. Every classification the volunteers do leads to a broader understanding of our Solar System and the objects with which we share it with.

Source:

Zooniverse. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mschwamb/comet-hunters/about/research

Etch a Cell

by Gabrielle Easterly

For decades, scientists have been trying to understand cells and how they work. The project that my group chose, Etch a Cell, will continue to assist scientists through a Zooniverse project. Zooniverse is a citizen science platform that allows  people to make an account and follow along with various projects to look at pictures and analyze them by either drawing something out, making marks, separating, or through other actions. For the Etch a Cell project we are instructed to look at a picture of a cell taken by an electron microscope and draw out the lining between the nucleus and the other chemicals that surround it called the nuclear envelope. While this project may not be the most fun to do, it can be very helpful for the development of cures for various diseases and cancers.

774352aa-72a6-4e1a-8b19-94f1c9116689

Our job is to segment the image taken by the electron microscope which allows for vision of smaller object such as cells. Segmenting is highlighting the topic of interest within an image, not just specifically identifying the nucleus and highlighting it. We are doing this because from this segmenting scientists can then create three-dimensional pictures that allow for better understanding of how the cell is formed. They are able to do this by segmenting together the different segments that we highlighted to create a model (The Francis Crick Institute). How cool?

The importance of this project by itself can not be stressed enough on the future development of health in the world! This project is extremely essential for cures to cell abnormalities caused by “cancer, infectious diseases (including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria), the immune system, the brain and nervous system, diabetes and several others” (Francis Crick Institute). The nuclear envelope forms in different ways based on what diseases or other cell irregularities that cause a negative or positive impact on the body. The nuclear envelope protects the nucleus and acts as a “gate,” and separates the chemicals outside of the nucleus from the nucleus itself (The Francis Crick Institute). With our couple of minutes to help these scientists we can help them understand cells better and make things more possible than they had been.

455a5710-738b-41ce-a6ce-14ef94d332d5With what might seem like only a small amount of assistance, people like you and I can help change the dynamics of cell studies. Segmenting the photos by themselves makes the overall process of creating the three-dimensional models much easier for the scientists. From the creations of the three-dimensional models scientists will now be able to understand how different diseases affect the cell, specifically the nucleus and nuclear envelope. Eventually computers will learn to do both the segmentation and creation of models on their own but all it will take is the continuous help of citizen scientists. With enough help from citizen scientists we can help the scientists at the Francis Crick Institute be “able to train computers to segment automatically” which can further their understanding of biology and the ability “to work out how new treatments might be created” (The Francis Crick Institute).

From this project we, regular people or citizen scientists, will be able to help lead to ,eventually, further understandings of cells. The Zooniverse platform makes it simple for people to become scientists and you would not think that drawing a line around a nucleus would have as much of an impact as it potentially could. This process would have taken the scientists at The Francis Crick Institute much more time to complete by hand.

Remember you too can become a citizen scientist and help continue the study for treatments!

 

The Francis Crick Institute. (n.d.). Etch a Cell . Retrieved July 13, 2017, from https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/h-spiers/etch-a-cell/about/research

Count Flowers for Bees

by Alex Burr

Bees and other animals are pollinators, and pollinators are crucial to keeping plants, animals, and us alive. Without pollinators, we would be unable to grow 75% of the food grown in the US daily, including all the sweet fruits you love and all the bad vegetables your parents probably make you eat. For this reason, it is necessary to identify places pollinators can visit frequently in order to increase conservation efforts there.

Pollinators are broadly defined as any species that transfers pollen from one plant to another plant of the same species. Plants have both the pollen (analogous to sperm in males) and the stigma (analogous to an egg in females) needed to fertilize itself. While some plants are able to fertilize themselves without outside help, 80-90% of all flowering plant species cannot. They need another organism, a vector (like a bee), to transfer pollen to the stigma and fertilize the plant.

Count Flowers for Bees is a collection of photos of Ireland’s countryside, where there are many flowering plants that need vectors (aka cross-pollinating plants). The research team that took these photographs needs your help in counting the total number of each kind of flower in each picture. When you count these flowers, the research team is able to identify the areas most populated with cross-pollinating flowers that therefore need conservation efforts the most. Without these conservation efforts, humankind could lose many of the flowering plants and/or the vectors they need to create food. This project is important because it concerns the very pollinators we all need to create the majority of our food, and without food humankind cannot survive (we think).