Tiger Conservation May Come Down to Tagging Their Photos Facebook-Like
Wildsense Tigers helps researchers through crowdsourced categorization of thousands of crowdsourced images of the felines
Tigers are now so badly endangered that there are only between 3,000 or so individuals left in the wild. But now, with so many amateur nature photographers running around, we also have another tool with which to keep track of the tiger population: photography. Wildsense Tigers is an iPad app that gamifies the crowdsourcing of data, offering rewards and a fun interface to users willing to help researchers wade through thousands of tiger photos.
The app, which was set up by Aaron Mason and Paul Krause from University of Surrey, uses a variety of different photo types, like those taken through camera traps, as well as ones extracted from the web through data mining.
It asks several questions about individual tiger photos, and the tasks it has users perform are remarkably similar to actions we often perform on social media, such as tagging a tiger’s face to help researchers identify individuals.
Users that answer questions about a given tiger picture get a gem; the amount of gems they accumulate places them on a leaderboard. “Gamification is a powerful mechanism that can help motivate people to spend their time on something,” said developer Aaron Mason. The top participant had over a thousand gems a week after the game’s release.
Computers have proved incredibly useful in wildlife conservation as they’ve gotten better and better, but their remaining weakness is in interpretation of semantic data.
“We use data from photos (as outlined above) so we can filter irrelevant photos,” said Mason. “For example, we know that wild tigers only exist in some locations in the world, so we can automatically discard photos from other places. Citizen scientists who play the Wildsense Tigers game provide information about the photo content, this includes the photo setting; i.e., is the tiger in an urban environment or a zoo?”
Currently, the game is only available for iPad, but Mason says they hope to bring out a cross-platform version, as well as editions of the app for other endangered species.
Tiger via Shutterstock