Project: Wildebeest Watch
Human beings love to watch things moving in lockstep. We enjoy marching bands and synchronized swimming, and we are particularly entranced by our cousins in the animal world. A murmuration of starlings, for example, can be mesmerizing.
Inevitably, no matter what we’re watching, the same question comes to mind: how do animals know which way to go when moving en masse? Or, better yet, how do they not all crash into one another?
It’s an important question, because many animals move in groups, and in cases where they are being pursued by predators, being able to move in a group effectively means the difference between life and death. No where is that more true than for the wildebeest, the perennial favourite of lions and hyenas.
Scientists would love to know more about the ‘collective intelligence’ of wildebeests (also known as gnus), and want to know how they use group movements to maximize their chances of finding food while staying safe. They’ve gathered images of wildebeests from a project known as Snapshot Serengeti, and now they need your help sorting the pictures. You can either mark the directions of the shadows (for calibration purposes) or the direction of the wildebeest.
“We combine your answers about where the sun and shadows are with the timestamp on the photo to calculate the camera direction,” explains the site, led by Ali Burchard. “Then we’re able to turn the left, right, towards, and away wildebeest markings into compass directions for the computer simulation models.”
To participate, sign into the wildebeest project using your existing Zooniverse login (or create one), and follow the classification instructions on screen. Try to resist breaking out into songs from The Lion King soundtrack while you work.