Serengeti Authentic Research Experience

Citizen Science in the Classroom is a three-part lab that will provide an authentic research experience to non-major students in BIOL 1001 Evolutionary and Ecological Perspectives and BIOL 1055 Our Environmental Environment: Science and Solutions. It is being developed by Annika Moe, with help from Mary Williams.

Snapshot Serengeti Data

The lab will use data from a project called Snapshot Serengeti, which headed by Craig Packer, a faculty member in the College Biological Sciences. The project uses 225 heat- and motion-sensing cameras, spread throughout Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, to capture millions of images of Serengeti's wildlife. To help sift through the millions of images, the project's researchers enlisted the help of the Zooniverse website, which hosts 'citizen science' projects. Zooniverse helps researchers classify the images by inviting the public to help identify the animals in each photo. 

In this lab, students will gather data from images on the Zooniverse website and the Snapshot Serengeti database. Working with this dataset will introduce them to "big data" generated from current scientific research and the role citizen science can play in making sense of this data.

Description of the Project

The activity is a three-part lab:

  1. Students go through exercises challenging them to develop and apply tree-thinking skills using organisms from the Serengeti as examples. Students should gain basic knowledge and background of the Serengeti ecosystem.
  2. They will be introduced to photos from Snapshot Serengeti project on the Zooniverse website. They will analyze photos to help them generate a research question and hypothesis about an ecological concept of their choice (e.g. competition, avoidance, predation, migration, territory, age, composition of herds). 
  3. Students will query the Snapshot Serengeti database and the use data visualization tools available in the statistical discovery software JMP to test their hypothesis. Students will present present their findings to their peers.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will develop tree-thinking skills, gaining an understanding of phylogenetics and the relatedness of living organisms.
  • Students will become familiar with the biodiversity in the Serengeti ecosystem, identifying different interactions and distinguishing characteristics of its species.
  • Students will develop critical skills while going through steps in the scientific process. This includes generating a testable hypothesis, critically analyzing visual data, querying a database for relevant information, summarizing data using graphs and figures and analyzing data to determine if hypothesis was correct.
  • Recognize opportunities to engage in science as a non-scientist citizen.