James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

Citizen Science Challenge #1: Armchair Conservation

*It’s been great to hear from everyone that has had a go at these awesome projects, lots of you for the first time. I’ve started posting updates from readers and the projects at the bottom of the page. If you’ve just arrived here, give it a try!

Camera Traps:

One of my most vivid conservation memories comes from working with camera traps. A team of volunteers huddled around a dim laptop screen in Oman’s Dhofar Mountains. The sun had set behind the vast coastal cliffs, and the dusk pervaded out little valley. We sat on the dusty gravel, peering at the images as we worked through the footage that our camera traps had collected over the previous weeks. Many showed nothing, triggered by by the wind moving branches and grass. Some gave us a glimpse of Hyena, Porcupine, Caracal and more amazing wildlife, living barely noticed in our valley. But my memory comes from the moment we found footage of the Arabian Leopard, one of the rarest of cats in the world and sadly critically endangered, as it sauntered along a rocky trail past one of our cameras.

Camera traps have to be one of the most exciting tools in a conservationists arsenal, allowing scientists to have dozens of pairs of eyes out in the field for days on end. But as any scientist who has used camera traps will tell you, making sense of all the footage with dozens of cameras taking hundreds of images can be a huge challenge.

Fortunately, now everyone can help. New projects like Snapshot Serengetti and Instant Wild make it possible for armchair conservationists to view the footage whilst sitting at home (or even via your smart phone on your daily commute). Ideas like this offer a fascinating insight into real conservation fieldwork, and they really do help scientists.

The Challenge:

To kick off my Year of Citizen Science, I’d like to challenge my readers to become camera trap experts; It only takes a few moments to try, so give it a go.

  • Click on one of the images below to be taken straight to the projects.
  • Help identify one or more camera trap images.
  • Download the addictive Instant Wild smartphone app for added fun whilst on the move.
  • Let me know what you think in the comments below. Which is best? What features do you like? Is it fun?

Citizen Science:


2013 is my Year of Citizen Science: A whole year of championing outstanding conservation projects and encouraging as many of you as possible to take part.

Recent Images:


Snapshot Serengeti

– Images from 225 Camera Traps based in Tanzania

– Part of the long-term Serengeti Lion Project

– Over 3 million images analyzed so far..


Instant Wild

– Images from Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Indonesia and more..

– Get live notifications as cameras are activated.

– Identify wildlife from your smart phone.


Project Updates:

Twitter Updates:

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*Huge thanks to Wildviews/Charles Tomalin for the cover image at the top of the page.

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