Friday, April 22, 2016

!!! Happy Earth Day and Happy One Year Anniversary to Chimp&See !!!

One year ago today (4/22/15), Chimp & See came to life at Our goal was to engage citizen scientists to help us annotate the thousands of hours of camera trap video footage we have collected as part of the PanAfrican Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf) from across Africa.

Our primary goal with Chimp & See is to better understand chimpanzees, which is why we ask for so much detail from the chimp videos. But it is also important to know the chimpanzee predator density at each site (leopards), the density of certain prey animals (monkeys), the human pressure at each site and the density of species that are food competitors with chimpanzees (elephants, pigs, monkeys and more). These are all factors that directly affect chimpanzee behaviour. Furthermore, we want biodiversity estimates for each site and to ascertain which species make good indicator species for these forests which help us develop better biomonitoring tools. We always anticipated as well to share our data with researchers interested in all the species represented in our camera trap videos.

We are proud and humbled to say that, one year later, our success has been much greater than we had anticipated!

To date, over 7600 Chimp & See citizen scientists have annotated more than 400,000 videos representing over 2.2 million classifications from 13 sites across Africa! And we have identified more than 330 different chimpanzees so far!

We've had some great surprises along the way, from the unexpected species (like our very first West African lions, and the hypnotically-dancing green mamba) to the unexpected behaviours (such as stone throwing, which led to our first paper, goop-eating, and something we like to call 'diddling').  We met some special chimps (like the exotic red-haired lady Roux, the pale-faced Pearl with Flocke her sideways-riding infant, and Dodge, whose disability is outshined by his personality -- also featured in our paper above), as well as a few unique individuals of other species.  And we even learned to speak chimpanzee!

Some "big picture" highlights from this past year include participating in both the Zooniverse Best Practices Workshop in Chicago, USA and the Max Planck Society's Open Science Days in Berlin, Germany and becoming official members of the B├╝rger schaffen Wissen, Atlas of the Future and European Citizen Science Association as well. We were also featured on's Cool Green Science Blog and the Leipzig city portal.

Thanks to the amazing work and initiative of our citizen scientists we have even initiated some very successful mini-projects, as well, including identifying many of the other primate species, and looking at animal camera reactions in our Animal Selfies project.  This work will allow us, and our collaborators, to continue learning from this data for years to come.
"With the help of enthusiastic and engaged citizen scientists, this exciting project has the potential to change our understanding of wild chimpanzee ecology" -- Hjalmar Kuehl, Director of the Great Ape Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Research GroupMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig
We could not have come this far without YOU, our volunteers, supporters, and friends.  Every day, we are excited and amazed by the efforts and enthusiasm you've given to C&S.

The PanAf Science Team wants to particularly thank our amazing Chimp&See volunteer moderators for their incredible support and work this past year. We know that thanks to their passion and commitment that our data and videos are in the best hands possible! The Science Team also wants to thank each and every one of our citizen scientists for their contribution to annotating the PanAf videos. Even if you only do it now and then for a few minutes at a time, we value the time and effort you are giving the project! Thank you, Grazie, Dankeschoen, Gracias and Merci !!!!

In addition to this special day, we decided the celebration should last a little longer... and have prizes!  Be sure to head over to the C&S Talk discussion boards after you finish reading this post to learn about some special chimps that are stopping by to party with us!  Find them all, and you could win your own official Chimp & See t-shirt!  This game will run through the end of next week (4/29), and will take place only on the Talk boards, so keep an eye out for them there!  Good luck!

And with that, we say Happy Earth Day, everyone and thank you so very very much for being part of the Chimp & See Community - we absolutely could not do this without you!

P.S.  If you, or someone you know, is still looking for a project for Earth Day, Chimp & See is a fun and rewarding place to volunteer!  It's suitable for kids and adults, from any location, any time of day, in any weather! Plus, with recent and upcoming improvements to our interface, tutorials, and FAQs, we're making it easier than ever to get started making a difference!  So please share this post or get the word out by following & sharing on Facebook and Twitter!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Field Update: First discoveries at a new temporary chimpanzee research site in Gabon!

Arnold, Emily, and Marcel about to enjoy a ride back to the village

This week's field update is from Emily Neil who is working as temporary research site (TRS) managers in Monts de Cristal National Park, Gabon as part of the MPI-EVA's Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee and in collaboration with l'Agence Nationale Des Parcs Nationaux Du Gabon.

Emily writes:
We arrived at our fourth potential temporary research site in November, feeling hopeful that this would be where we'd find chimps and begin our study. After three months of wandering the jungles of Monts de Cristal National Park in Gabon, Marcel and I were ready to find a sizable population of chimpanzees! 
Marcel, Yves, and Francois awaiting our ride after a long day of trekking
We arrived at the village and hired an amazing young guide named Arnold. His first day on the job was particularly exciting:
After a hearty breakfast of rice and beans, we entered into the deep, dense jungle. The air was heavy with humidity, and all we could hear were the iconic barking calls of the great blue turaco and the hum of cicadas. It had rained heavily the night before, making the going a bit slow. It is not easy going up and down mud-slicked hills! We slip a lot, and all three of us fall flat on our faces or butts at least once a day. This is usually a great source of entertainment -- who can have the most impressive wipeout of the day? Well, that day I won the award. While looking down at my GPS, I suddenly felt my foot fall down something and then get stuck, causing me to fall forward, right onto my face! Turns out I had stepped into a water-filled elephant footprint, sinking up to my knee, and losing my boot in the process! Luckily my boot wasn't completely submerged, so I quickly snatched it out of the murky footprint-depths, put a plastic bag over my sock to keep it from the now-damp boot, and continued on, pride somewhat still intact. 
Nice example of a natural bridge in our TRS
After about an hour, we got a call from Arnold, who was following us nearby. He had found a chimpanzee tool-use site! Over the course of the day (his very first day on the job, I might add) he helped us find dozens of chimp nests, including several brand-new day nests, and an amazing total of three tool-use sites. We set up camera traps at all the sites we found, and headed back home for the day. On the way back, we very narrowly avoided stepping on a beautiful green bush viper. It seemed sluggish, like it had just eaten, so we took some pictures and continued on. A short time later, we discovered leopard and gorilla prints in the mud, and heard the whistling calls of a flock of African grey parrots overhead.
Nephilia turneri - golden silk orb-weaver. 
It was the size of my hand, and you can really see the golden web!
Bush viper... A beautiful, well-camouflaged, and venomous snake!
Over the next few weeks, we heard, for the first time ever, chimps screaming and drumming. Understandably, we were excited to see if we had gotten anything on video! We were able to retrieve five cameras on the first "camera trap day." We returned home with our pockets full of SD cards, giddy with excitement. But alas, there were no chimp videos! The next day, we retrieved our final three SD cards. We went through two of them... Nothing. The third card had a measly 20 videos on it, most of which would inevitably be false triggers from sunlight or waving plants. I disappointedly began going through the videos anyway. Lo and behold, the very first video had a chimp on it! I hollered, much to the alarm of Marcel, and checked the next video. That very same chimp was using a tool!! All of our hard work had paid off. We are so excited to see what our new site has in store for us next.
Our first chimp spot!