Citizen Science Corner

[Newsletter: Summer 2020]

FISHstory Project Launches in May

The Council launched its newest citizen science project, FISHstory, in late May and we’ve been blown away by the positive response! Perhaps the timing was just right given that many of us are staying home now more than ever, but I’m in the camp that it is just a great and interesting project.  FISHstory (pronounced like history) uses the power of the crowd to analyze historic dock photos from the 1940s to 1970s via the internet. Participants in the pilot project take a step back in time through nostalgia rich photographs of the for-hire fleet in Daytona Beach, Florida. The project trains volunteers to identify and count fish in these historic photos through the online crowdsourcing platform, Zooniverse. Knowing the species, number, and size of fish caught over time is critical to understanding the health of a fish population. The data collected through FISHstory will help managers build a more complete picture of the for-hire fisheries prior to the beginning of dedicated catch monitoring programs.

The numbers surpass what we expected here at the FISHstory team. In less than three months, over 1,100 volunteers have participated in the project, making over 19,800 classifications. The project has two workflows:

  • FISH: Classify – where volunteers help identify and count fish in the photos and
  • FISH & PEOPLE: Count – where volunteers help count the people and fish in the photos.

Each photo is analyzed by multiple volunteers. Once analysis on a photo is complete, it is retired. If volunteers don’t agree on what is in the photo, it is shared with our FISHstory Validation Team, a team of scientists and fishermen that help verify the species and counts in some of the trickier photos.

We have added 500 photos to the FISH: Classify workflow and over 1,200 photos to the FISH & PEOPLE: Count workflow. Thanks to our amazing volunteers, over 1,250 photos have been retired and almost all of the photos for the FISH & PEOPLE: Countworkflow are complete!

Without the help from our partners and colleagues, we would not have been able to spread the word about FISHstory and recruit so many incredible volunteers in such a short amount of time. Building the project in Zooniverse allowed us to immediately connect with their remarkable community of citizen scientists across the world. Thanks to the relationships we have and new ones we are building, we have been lucky to have FISHstory featured in blogs, newsletters, and podcasts. Check out some of these highlights below.

There are also some exciting opportunities coming up for FISHstory this fall! We will be partnering with EarthEcho International, an environmental education organization, to do a virtual field trip on September 29, 2020  to help bring FISHstory into classrooms.

The success of this project is due to our incredible partners, collaborators, and volunteers. Special thanks go to Rusty Hudson, who provided the archived photos from his family’s headboat fleet in Daytona Beach, FL; the FISHstory Design Team who has provided guidance during the project’s development and will continue to advise us during the project’s implementation; the FISHstory Validation Team who will help verify volunteer’s species identifications; the Citizen Science Action Team members whose templates and best practices provided key resources for the development of the project; and all of our partners who have promoted the project to their colleagues, fishing clubs, classrooms, and friends.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out FISHstory yet, visit our project website to get started!

Want to keep up with the Citizen Science Program and projects? Fill out the online form HERE to join our email distribution list or follow the Council on social media!

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