Seafloor Explorer

Citizen science with Seafloor Explorer

I am a beeeeg fan of citizen science. This is what happens when non-professional scientists, such as you and I, gather scientific data or do experiments that can lead to real scientific results. This is immensely satisfying, specially for someone like me who is probably in the wrong (non-scientific) career, but (for various reasons) isn’t going to change it any time soon.

When I was at university, my friends and I participated in the SETI@home project, donating our computers’ spare processing cycles to analysing radio telescope data in search of aliens (and other interesting data). In this way the researchers were able to analyse far more data than if they’d just used the computing power at their personal disposal. These days, Tony and I participate in western leopard toad research by submitting photos of our resident toad (Franklin) to iSpot.

With modern sampling methods, silly amounts of data can be generated – more than a single scientist or team could process in several lifetimes. Enlisting the help of the man on the street to filter the data down to what is interesting saves time, and enables studies of impressive magnitude to be undertaken.

Seafloor Explorer
Seafloor Explorer

The Seafloor Explorer project allows the general public to analyse images taken by HabCam, a camera that flies above the ocean floor (towed by a ship) taking six images per second. The camera is completely non-invasive, and the latest version actually comprises two cameras in stereo, which allows size measurements to be taken, as well as some other sensors. Participants in the project will look through photos from the camera, and identify the material of the ocean floor (for example, sand or gravel) and what organisms they can see in each frame. The interface also allows measurements to be taken.

One way in which this system can be (and is being) used is for fisheries management of benthic species such as scallops. This enables better quotas to be set. One could also assess habitat damage from trawling activities. The interface is simple, and interesting images can be shared on Twitter and facebook if participants desire to do so.

You can check out the project website here, see how it works, and sign up if it grabs you!

Via Huffington Post.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.