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Here’s What 40,000 Photos of Wildlife Looks Like

People all around the world submitted nearly 40,000 observations of plants, animals, and fungi to create a global snapshot of biodiversity last month, as part of National Geographic’s Great Nature Project.

If you look at each one for just 5 seconds, it’ll take you more than two days of constant staring to see them all.

But this wasn’t just an exercise in photo-collecting. This was an opportunity to call attention to all the living things that are part of our daily lives and to get to know them more closely. Each observation is tagged with a date, location, and scientific identification.

This map shows the location and time of observations submitted during the global snapshot of biodiversity for National Geographic’s Great Nature Project. The map was created using CartoDB. [DISCLAIMER: This map does not necessarily reflect the current map policy of the National Geographic Society.]

More than 3,000 users snapped photos of wildlife and its environment from May 15-25 and shared them. Participants could contribute photos via iNaturalist.org or its associated mobile app, or by uploading directly to the Great Nature Project. Some particularly colorful sightings were made in and around the erupting crater of Kilauea during the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz.

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[Click image to see more.] Birds, bugs, and beasts from under the waves all make their way into the Great Nature Project via iNaturalist as people record their observations around the world. (Image courtesy the Great Nature Project)
Not everyone uploading a photo knew exactly what it was they were looking at, but that was no problem.

With a team of scientists scouring every unidentified observation, every photo could get a label. And through that high-end crowd-sourcing, we know that more than 8,000 different species were recorded during that time. Of those, at least 500 had never been recorded on iNaturalist before, which is impressive considering that the site now has more than 1.4 million observations of biodiversity recorded by citizen scientists.

Species that were recorded for the first time on iNaturalist.org were the Northwestern Neotropical Rattlesnake (Crotalus culminatus) observed in Mexico, a Puerto Rican Semi-Slug (Gaeotis flavolineata) seen in Puerto Rico, a globally vulnerable Bearded Guan (Penelope barbata) photographed in silhouette in Ecuador, and a globally endangered Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) spotted in India.

All of these records, once the identification is confirmed by another user, will be shared with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) which provides free and open access to biodiversity data from hundreds of sources.

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This globally endangered Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) was photographed in eastern India by San Jay. This observation represents an important record because this species has relatively few georeferenced records, even including data from museum specimens submitted to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. (Photo by San Jay CC-BY-NC)

Are you interested in exploring biodiversity data yourself? Check out gbif.org and iNaturalist.org to download data for your own analyses and visualizations.

If you want to share your photos of biodiversity and turn them into useful scientific data, they are always welcome at greatnatureproject.org. We plan to repeat the global snapshot of biodiversity again in May 2016 and we’ll need all the help we can get. We hope you’ll join us!

Carrie Seltzer manages National Geographic’s Great Nature Project. She has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Comments

  1. Sam
    June 4, 2015, 2:41 pm

    Awesome job!