A case study of Crowdsourcing the monitoring of the CahowCam and other Wildlife Cams.
The Nonsuch Expeditions CahowCam has this year once again been live streaming for over 6 months from the underground Cahow burrow on Nonsuch Island. Whilst these 24/7 video streams present many opportunities to learn more about our subjects, it is impossible (and unrealistic) to expect our small team to be monitoring them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6+ months, and invariably significant events are missed.
This year our online viewers watched over 8.5 million minutes of CahowCam video over the 6 month period, all logging in when their schedules permit from different time zones around the world. This resulted in there being multiple if not hundreds or thousands of viewers online at any one point in time, and given the right tools they were able to log and and report significant events to us which we could then re-confirm by going back to the video archive being created at Cornell.
As a perfect example, on March 20th 2017, at 2:50 am local time, a planarian flatworm (possibly the snail eating variety) dropped from the roof onto the back of our Cahow chick. Our local Team was not watching at the time, however one of our regular viewers who lives in Japan, was not only watching but recognized that this was something to be concerned about and reached out via Twitter including video frame grabs showing the intruder.
Some varieties of flatworms are flesh eaters and will for example kill and eat snails, so there was the initial concern that it might somehow be trying to feed off of the young Cahow chick. Alerted by the Twitter feed we woke up Jeremy who started preparing to rush out to Nonsuch to remove the worm whilst in parallel we reached out to our partners at Cornell to review the high resolution footage of the intrusion.
Fortuntaley Cornell was quickly able to confirm from their video that the worm could be seen exiting the burrow via the tunnel a few minutes after it arrived so the "crisis" was averted, nonetheless this is a very good example of how we can and should crowdsource our followers to help monitor these feeds. There were in fact many other never before documented incidents captured this season including an adult Cahow intruder that almost killed, our at the time, very young chick.
This year once "Shadow" fledged and the season officially wrapped up, we left the camera running to document what would happen to the nest after the Cahows left, and sure enough, as first documented last year, a very lost Storm Petrel moved in to make a nest and try to attract a mate. As much of this activity happens between midnight and 5 am our Citizen Scientist followers are again helping log his activities including a "battle" with two crabs that we might otherwise have missed.