Camera traps in Serengeti provide wild animal classifications, public learning opportunities

by Ellen Schmidt

A University of Minnesota study turned citizen science revolution, Snapshot Serengeti, developed into a database that aids in wild animal classification.


The project, headed by lead researcher Chris Packard from the University’s College of Biological Sciences, started with radio-tracking of lions in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.


Alexandra Swanson, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford who got her PhD in ecology, evolution, and behavior from the University of Minnesota, and her team executed the project.


In efforts to obtain more information about other species, the project put out 225 “camera traps” — automatic cameras set off by heat or motion — that allow researchers to study other species, and how they interact with lions.


The camera traps captured continuous images since they were placed in 2010, and have identified 40 mammalian species in the park.


More than 28,000 volunteers powered the project by reviewing the 1.2 million images, creating the citizen science basis of the project.


“Without volunteer help, the research wouldn’t have been possible,” Swanson said in a statement.


From the research, Swanson and her team developed the database via Zooniverse, which fuels citizen based projects like this one.


The University of Minnesota is developing a lab curriculum based on the project in the College of Biological Sciences.