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9 wildlife websites for citizen scientists who want to save the earth

General August 12, 2016

9 wildlife websites for citizen scientists who want to save the earthDoing good for nature is just a mouse-click away. Citizen science, or the general public's participation in scientific research, allows the average person to help conservationists do extraordinary, impactful work. Websites that help facilitate this are often filled with simple yet entertaining tasks, which will educate you on the natural world while also freeing up time for conservationists to do the heavy lifting.  SEE ALSO: The struggle and resilience of the world's tigers, in photos Find the right site, and the work is anything but menial — and it can have a massive impact, no science degree required. You just need a passion for helping the environment, vulnerable animal populations and those on the frontlines of conservation efforts.  Here are nine nature websites that will help you save the earth. 1. Monitoring osprey feeding habits Image: Explore.org Using this 24-hour osprey livestream by bird conservation nonprofit the National Audubon Society and Explore.org, citizen scientists can help researchers monitor feeding patterns of the birds of prey. Users simply keep tabs on the cam, and grab their best snapshot when there's a feeding on the nest. Sure, tragedy sometimes strikes the nest when an eagle swoops down for a snack — but that's just the ruthless reality of nature. The majority of the time, however, the soothing sound of the water makes for peaceful background noise while you're waiting to take your shot. 2. Classifying bat calls Image: Batdetective.org Identifying bat calls isn't as difficult as it might seem. Bat Detective allows users to listen to and sort bat calls so scientists can better understand the behavior of bat populations. Users classify three-second bat call clips as either for social, searching or feeding purposes depending on their pitch and frequency. Don't worry, it's easier than it sounds — and you'll learn a lot about these slightly creepy (but very important) creatures.  3. Identifying wild animals for a cause Image: Zooniverse.org A partnership between big cat nonprofit Panthera and citizen science web portal Zooniverse created your new favorite way to do some good. Through Camera CATalogue, citizen scientists can help classify wild animals to help Panthera researchers learn more about big cat populations. Users sort through photos taken by Panthera's "camera traps," which take an image every time movement is indicated in the wild. Those photos can capture a number of wild animals — from hartebeests and wildebeests to cheetahs and leopards. Sometimes you'll even run across images of people caught checking up on the cameras, or a jeep speeding by. The cataloging will allow you to learn more about animals in the wild, while helping conservationists learn more about wild habitats and the big cats that call them home. 4. Decoding nature's past for an improved future Image: transcription.si.edu If your hidden talent is reading scrawled handwriting, then these citizen science projects are for you. Scientists have meticulously documented nature for ages — long before the advent of technology. Their handwritten observations now need to be transcribed and documented through computer cataloging — and you can help. Science Gossip lets you classify Victorian-era reports and drawings to help map some very early observations of nature. Notes From Nature allows citizen scientists to transcribe and document fascinating museums records on nature — complete with scans of actual specimens of beautiful flowers and plants. The Transcription Center at the Smithsonian Institute lets you transcribe records — some nature-themed — from one of the most famous museums in the world on a rotating basis. Current selections include a bug diary and field notes from noted scientists. 5. Sorting snapshots of the Serengeti Image: snapshotserengeti.org If you always wanted to hang out with the wild animals of Tanzania, now's your chance. With Snapshot Serenget i , you can sort through images taken by camera traps set up by the University of Minnesota's Lion Center, with the goal of helping researchers understand the food webs, biodiversity and sustainability of the region to assist lion conservation efforts. By categorizing and identifying animals, citizen scientists get an education themselves, learning the difference between a caracal and a wildcat, or a genet and a civet. And it's all while helping researchers monitor vulnerable wild lion populations and save their habitats. 6. Simply counting whales and dolphins Image: Zooniverse.org Everyone's favorite massive mammals of the ocean need your help — and counting skills. This Zooniverse endeavor, dubbed Snapshots at Sea, is the first step in helping researcher identify individual whales as part of the — wait for it — Whales As Individuals project. It couldn't be simpler. All users have to do is identify whether there's one or more whales or dolphins in a photo. It's super easy — and super helpful — in cataloging the animals for further research and identification. 7. Counting condors in California Image: Condorwatch.org Condors in California face devastating lead poisoning — and documenting their locations and behavior can help conservationists curb its impact. Condor Watch, an initiative from those on the frontlines of condor conservation, can help. Users simply look at photos of condors taken by motion-activated cameras set up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Ventana Wildlife Society. By identifying the tag number of each condor and its behavior around a feeding carcass, these organizations can judge if the bird's behavior indicates possible lead poisoning. Just try not to get squeamish from the very visible animal carcasses. 8. Picking through pictures of plankton Image: Planktonportal.org Plankton Portal asks you to mark images of plankton taken by underwater imaging systems in the Mediterranean and off the coast of California. The photos then go on to help researchers learn more about the health and stability of the planet's oceans — and hopefully help conservationists in their quest to improve overall ocean health. As Plankton Portal says, no plankton means no ocean life. So take time to show appreciation for these microscopic organisms' impact on your favorite aquatic creatures. 9. Helping computers understand animal faces Image: Zooniverse.org Are adorable pictures of animals more your speed? With Understanding Animal Faces , another Zooniverse endeavor, users simply draw a box around the face of each animal in photos. This simple task trains computers on how to identify faces — which can be incredibly valuable to researchers. The eventual goal is to establish an annotated database of animal faces, comprising hundreds of different animal species. Maybe you'll stumble on American bulldogs, polar bears or even a mountain gorilla. The possibilities — and the species — are nearly endless.


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