Summary

HHMI and the Zooniverse launch WildCam Gorongosa, a new citizen science project.

Highlights

  • WildCam Gorongosa is a new citizen science project that needs your help.
  • You can contribute to the restoration of one of the most biodiverse places in Africa from your phone or computer. 
  • Sign up at wildcamgorongosa.org to identify animals in photos taken by motion-activated trail cameras.

Paola Bouley, Director of the Gorongosa Lion  Project, and Domingas Aleixo install a trail camera in Gorongosa National Park.

Calling all conservation enthusiasts, wildlife fans, and students of ecology: you can contribute to the restoration of one of the most biodiverse places in Africa from your phone or computer.  

WildCam Gorongosa is a new citizen science project that needs your help. At wildcamgorongosa.org, participants identify animals in photos taken by motion-activated trail cameras. The data generated are then returned to scientists in Gorongosa National Park (GNP) to help with their research. With the high volume of photos, citizen scientists are an essential component of the WildCam project.

These never-before-seen photos provide a glimpse into the lives of animals in their natural environment. Baboons, elephants, and antelope make regular appearances. What are the animals doing? Are they alone or in a group? Are there any young around? These are the many questions that WildCam citizen scientists will answer. And participants might even identify animals that no one has ever seen in person: The only hyena spotted in Gorongosa in the last 20 years was seen in a trail camera photo.

WildCam Gorongosa is one of several pieces that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has created in support of an upcoming PBS series about GNP, “Gorongosa Park: Rebirth of Paradise,” premiering September 22 at 8/7c (check local listings). HHMI has also made a five-year, $2.3 million grant to build labs and classrooms and support of educational activities at the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory in GNP. HHMI’s BioInteractive developed WildCam Gorongosa in collaboration with GNP and the Zooniverse, a citizen science platform. To contribute to the WildCam project, sign up at wildcamgorongosa.org.

Situated at the southernmost tip of the Great African Rift Valley in central Mozambique, GNP is home to an unusually high concentration of species, some of which are found only in GNP. Prior to Mozambique’s decades-long civil war, the park was especially known for its lions. But the ongoing fighting decimated the lion population, along with elephants, wildebeests, zebras, and other large animals. In the years since the war, GNP has formed partnerships with scientists to restore the Park and its wildlife.

The Gorongosa Lion Project was established to monitor and support the recovery of the lion population in the Park. As part of that effort, the research team installed over 50 motion-activated trail cameras to see where lions are and how they move through the Park. These cameras produce an enormous amount of data – around 1,000 photos per camera per month – all of which have to be analyzed for evidence of lions and other wildlife. WildCam Gorongosa is now harnessing the power of citizen scientists to help in this effort.

“We still have a lot to learn about the lions in Gorongosa. Are they rebounding to the numbers seen before the war or is something preventing their recovery? These are difficult questions to answer in such a vast place. Trail cameras -- and a team of citizen scientists to help us identify the animals in the photos -- are invaluable for understanding and supporting lion recovery in the Park,” says Paola Bouley, Director and Co-Founder of the Gorongosa Lion Project.

Data from WildCam Gorongosa will not only inform the lion research, but will also benefit other critical research in the Park, including a study of herbivores. And as the project expands with more cameras in additional locations throughout the Park, even more information will be available for scientists working in Gorongosa.

WildCam Gorongosa will also formally expand into classrooms this spring, with the launch of an educator portal that will allow students to use the data generated by the project to ask and answer their own research questions. Students will be able to download data sets that correspond to different environments, times of day, or types of animal to investigate animal behavior and distribution among habitats in the park.

“WildCam Gorongosa provides a terrific opportunity for citizens and students across the US and anywhere in the world to glimpse African wildlife in their natural surroundings, and to contribute to the rebirth of a very special place,” notes Sean Carroll, Vice President for Science Education at HHMI.

About HHMI’s BioInteractive

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. The Institute aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that accurately reflects the excitement of scientific research. Through its Webby-nominated BioInteractive website, HHMI provides a wide array of free science education resources for the classroom, including short films, interactive lessons, and animations.

About the Zooniverse

The Zooniverse was founded in 2007 with a single project, Galaxy Zoo, but now encompasses more than 40 projects in subjects from papyrology to particle physics. The Zooniverse has a wealth of experience in the field of ecology, running successful projects such as Snapshot Serengeti, Penguin Watch, and Chimp & See.

For More Information

Jim Keeley 301.215.8858 keeleyj@hhmi.org