Many thanks for your patience! Turns out that compiling the results of the expedition proved to be a lot more time consuming than expected due to a bug in the software (which has now been fixed). So here is some more results from our digital expedition to Namibia. Together, we found 4,852 potential animals in 209 of the UAV/aerial images. Keep in mind that each image was shown to 4 different volunteers on average for quality assurance purposes (some images were viewed by as many as 10 volunteers). This means that the figure 4,582 does not represent the total number of unique animals—there are many overlaps as depicted in the image below. An initial review of the digital shields suggests that at least 70% of them were accurate. We know that this percentage can be increased significantly based on the lessons we’ve learned from this first deployment.
The above result shows overlapping digital shields, meaning that several volunteers each spotted the same wild animals. The graph below shows how active digital volunteers were over the course of the expedition.
How do we know that the number of accurate digital shields can be increased significantly? Because it seems that some volunteers decided to trace termite mounds, meerkat holes and dead animals. When volunteers began finding termite mounds and shared this information via our dedicated chatroom, we explained that those were not relevant to the rangers. But the response we got from volunteers was that termites were animals too, so surely they should be counted. While the aerial images were high quality they were not high resolution enough to count each termite (thank goodness : )
In any event, this is Lesson #1 for us: be very clear ahead of time on what exactly is being searched for. In the future, we’ll be sure to provide examples of animals that we are looking for and not looking for. At one point during the expedition, there was excitement in our dedicated chatroom when a volunteer found a Land Rover and a large tarp. Everyone wanted to see these new finds, which created a bit of a frenzy. Alas, Land Rovers and tarps don’t count as animals : )
We received some great feedback from digital volunteers during and after the expedition. Sandra, for example, writes that the project was “a great experience and I recommend it for anyone, but especially those of us who are older or not in perfect health. You can make a difference, volunteer, and have fun and excitement in the comfort of your home. Try it, you’ll like it!” Another volunteer, Peter, also wrote in about his experience: ” The chatroom was quickly filling with bright-eyed aspiring digital rangers. Simply reading the typed mannerisms I could tell that a diverse group of individuals had answered the call. […] I enjoyed the feel-good atmosphere that accompanies protecting animals from the comfort of your home. While a few had the misfortune of [finding computer bugs rather than wild animals], the rest persevered through the endless pictures of barren desert to single out the elusive animals. I was even lucky enough to personally find some ostriches and a wildebeest before the end! The response to the mission was grossly underestimated, and the work was finished in spectacular time – a true testament to the collective good of the internet.”
One of the recurring questions we’ve been asked is: “Just who are these digital volunteers?” To answer this question, we decided to identify the Top 10 most active volunteers and interview them. Our most active volunteer was Martin from Newburry in the United Kingdom. “I’ve wanted to do something in respect of the world’s wildlife for a long time, and with my ‘eye for detail’, this activity has been a very enjoyable experience,” writes Martin. Another one of our Top 10 most active volunteers was Joe, a graduate student and consultant in Washington, DC. Nick and Markus were also in the Top 10. Nick, who is based in Maryland, is a “nonprofit professional with a strong interest in humanitarian relief and a commitment to making the future better than the present.” Markus lives in Meersburg, Germany where he is studying for a Masters in “Sustainable Forestry, Business Development Remote Sensing.”
Valeria, another one of our very active volunteers was surprised to find out she had made the Top 10. “Well, I must admit that your mail was unexpected. I took part of this digital expedition not only because, as an SBTF volunteer, I wanted to help testing the Aerial Clicker, but also because I love animals and this was a real opportunity to do something for to support the wildlife in Namibia – a country that I really would like to visit one day.” Valeria is a Political Science and International Relations graduate student with a passion for data, technology and innovation. She lives in Italy. Also in the Top 10 is Fiona who lives in New Zealand. Fioana is a writer who likes to show “her children how we can help others not others no matter what our location or stage of life.” She adds: “It felt neat to spend a little time helping some people so far away and hopefully to also help the animals the world needs to look after.”
Jessi from Montana writes: “I’d like to start by thanking you whole heartedly for the experience of being a Digital Ranger over the weekend. It was both a serious and fun experience. I have been to Africa twice and on both occasions went on safari. Words can’t describe the emotions you feel, seeing the animals in their natural environment. It’s fantastic that I can be in Ireland and help to save all and any animal under threat from poaching.” Last but not least, Stuart shared that it was “great to be able to take part in any humanitarian and wildlife projects and know your helping others. Please let me know if I can help out more in any way.”
Thanks again to all our digital volunteers for their passion, time and energy! We’ll be sure to keep you posted on future Expeditions via the MicroMappers email list-serve, so stay tuned!