Crowd sourcing seafloor data

By Nicole Webster

I found a procrastination site the other day (I know, I don’t exactly need more of those either) which I think you will like. It’s called Seafloor Explorer. There’s a very short tutorial which shows you what to do, but you simply choose what type of sea floor you see in the images provided (sand, gravel, with shells…), and then what organisms you see on those seafloors, choosing between seastars, fish, scallops, crustaceans, or ‘other’. Then you measure each, and voilà! We know more about the ocean floor. Further, the data may help to ‘teach’ computers how to do this, allowing the process to be partially automated.

Some are quick but disappointingly abiotic, or without life. Credit: WHOI

The site is set up by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They have placed 100,000 (of 4 million) photos of the sea floor up on the web in this program for some citizen science  (where the general public helps with large projects online). The photos are all of the Atlantic coastal regions of the northeastern US and were taken 2.5 m (6-8 ft.) above the seafloor.  Because of the distance, the photos aren’t super sharp, which is why human eyes are needed rather than being able to automate this analysis with a computer already.  With the website, you can sign up to keep track of how many you’ve done, there’s a ‘talk’ section to discuss questions and show off cool things you see, and you can #tag your photos or look for photos with different organisms in it (#leaf, #hagfish…).

Here’s one with lots of life! Am I biased because I picked one I found with a snail? Credit: WHOI

There’s also a blog for more official announcements. The site has been up since September 13th, and already they may have found a new species! If you see anything like the ‘convict worm’ below, let them know by tagging it #convict-worm!

A ‘convict worm’, possibly a new species. Let them know if you see one in your photos. Credit: WHOI

If that’s not enough for you, Seafloor Explorer is part of the Zooniverse, a collection of different citizen science projects. Many of them are space-related, but there’s an awesome one for anyone who knows Greek (ancient Greek specifically). Perhaps more up your alley, there an Orca translation site to try to group orca soundbytes.

Happy procrastinating!

1 thought on “Crowd sourcing seafloor data

  1. Interesting – there’s also an identical project running more locally here in the Pacific Northwest – “Digital Fishers” from NEPTUNE Canada (which has an instrument node out of Bamfield). ( iI streams ROPOS HD video taken from NEPTUNE cruises and video content ranges from stretches of seafloor mud to hydrothermal vents to sponges!

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