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20 wild 'selfies' of animals in the Serengeti
A baboon played with a camera Oct. 31, 2011 - photo by Natalie Crofts
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania Hundreds of cameras captured more than 1.2 million candid photos of wild animals in Serengeti National Park.

The number of photos was so great that researchers created Snapshot Serengeti, a platform designed to crowdsource the task of identifying the animals. Details about the project were published online in Natures Scientific Data Tuesday.

This was the largest camera tracking survey conducted in science to date, lead researcher Alexandra Swanson said in a statement. We wanted to study how predators and their prey co-existed across a dynamic landscape.

Swansons team set up 225 camera traps, which took photos when activated by heat or motion. In total, researchers were able to identify 40 mammalian species in the images. All of the photos can still be found online in a searchable database.

This project is a great example of how citizen science can contribute to real research, Swanson said. We all know that people are good at pattern recognition, so harnessing the power of volunteers will become increasingly important for ecology studies. We can engage people with no scientific background to help in producing publishable scientific research at a scope and scale that would otherwise have been impossible.

Those who want to help out with similar projects are in luck. Zooniverse, which hosted Snapshot Serengeti, is currently asking for help to identify animals for the Chicago Wildlife Watch. The site also has active crowdsourcing projects for topics like astronomy, climatology and humanities.

We compiled some of our favorite "Serengeti selfies" in the photo gallery. Let us know which images you like best in the comment section.
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