Big Data for Big Animals: Citizen Science Helps Mozambican Wildlife

A baboon takes a “selfie” by checking out a motion-activated trail camera in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
A baboon takes a “selfie” by checking out a motion-activated trail camera in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

I check the ‘Talk’ forum on WildCam Gorongosa every day to see what’s new. “Is this blurry antelope at night a bushbuck or a reedbuck?” This is a tough one even for the most expert ecologist. As a scientist who spent several years studying herbivores in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, I plan to chime in, but I find that three other people responded to the question already, and they’re all correct. This is the beauty of citizen science – the collective knowledge of the group outweighs the uncertainty of the individual.

Paola Bouley and her team of lion researchers working on the Gorongosa Lion Project are counting on this collective intelligence to help them with a common problem in science today: they have too much data. They are embarking on the first in-depth study of Gorongosa’s lion population since the 15-year civil war in Mozambique, which ended in 1992. This conflict displaced thousands of Mozambicans and devastated Gorongosa’s wildlife populations, especially large animals like buffalo, zebra, and elephants that were poached and sold for weapons. With the disappearance of these large animals, large predators, like lions, also diminished in number. Since a major restoration project began in 2004 to protect and restore the park, these megafauna appear to be making a gradual recovery. Researchers are actively monitoring how each of Gorongosa’s animal populations are responding to restoration efforts, while adapting their strategies as new information is gathered.

Domingas Aleixo opens a trail camera to replace its batteries and SD card.

In 2012, the Gorongosa Lion Project began the difficult work of tracking wide-ranging, elusive lions across a 1,500-square-mile wilderness of Gorongosa. The team started using —> Read More

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