Research Manager, Snapshot SafariOrganisations: University of Minnesota Lion Center
To address the urgent need for more accurate assessments of wildlife populations, the University of Minnesota Lion Center has deployed an unprecedented network of camera trap grids in dozens of wildlife parks and reserves in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as part of the Snapshot Safari project. Some of the participating parks are managed as conservancies, some are privately owned, and some are government-run. With the help of accurate camera trap censuses, we will be able to identify which sites are being managed most successfully — and hence, which conservation strategies should be incorporated into the toolbox for effective wildlife management.
Snapshot Safari looks to citizen scientists from around the world to identify wildlife caught on camera. With millions of images ready to be classified, participants have the opportunity to search for wildlife in remarkable ecosystems as Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve, Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, South Africa's Kruger National Park, and Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Images are uploaded to the citizen science platform Zooniverse.org, where volunteers help us identify the species, counts, and behaviors observed in each park. We are incorporating machine learning algorithms to speed up the classification process and require fewer annotations from humans.
Once classified and validated, the camera-trap data will be made available for scientific and educational purposes throughout the world. Snapshot Safari will enable researchers to closely examine questions of species coexistence, competition, trophic interactions, and other ecological relationships across a variety of habitat types, community compositions, and management strategies. The results will contribute to the development and refinement of important methods to conserve some of the most beloved species and ecosystems on our planet.