Facebook Helps Identify 5,000 Fish

Researchers hired by Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History conducted a biological survey of fish diversity in one river in the country of Guyana. The Cuyuni River is about 350 miles long, and the researchers were able to collect 5,000 fish specimens from it. After such an impressive feat, they were faced with a very large hurdle: All the specimens had to be identified in less than a week so they could be shipped out of the country legally.

They decided to post a catalog of specimen images on Facebook and make a request for help from the online friends. In less than twenty-four hours, about ninety percent of the fish had been identified. In fact, there were two species likely to be new to science spotted by the Facebook community. Social networking and greater Internet access in South America made the novel approach possible. Both of these trends are also still growing, so the potential for online collaboration will be even greater as time goes on. In this particular case, the bulk of the commenters doing the work have doctorates in relevant fields such as icthyology. They live in countries like the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. It didn’t matter where they were, as long as they could have reliable Internet access to participate in the online work they could contribute as much, or as little, as they wanted.

A fascinating human metric as it relates to online collaboration comes from wikipedia, which is managed and grown by volunteers. Clay Shirky has estimated the current version of Wikipedia has resulted from 100 million hours of volunteer work. If that number is compared with the estimated 200 billion hours of television, it provides a glimpse of how the Internet is shifting culture towards interactivity and productivity and away from passivity and social isolation.

Websites like Facebook, Linkedin, Care2 and Twitter (to name a few) are creating opportunities for social interaction and achievements that weren’t possible even a dozen years ago.

Image Credit: traveladventurers.org

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Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper!

ANA MARIJA R5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago

thank you

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

good to see people working together to help other species live too.

caterina caligiuri


Kelly Stephens
Kelly Stephens6 years ago

thanks for sharing

Shelly Peterson
Shelly Peterson6 years ago

WOW! That was some real teamwork!!

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago


KAREN L6 years ago

It was good to see a positive use for facebook after just having read an article on yahoo.fr about the use of information that facebook uses with clients approval because they don't bother to read the fine print...ie, nearly all their photos, info, etc are available to nearly everyone....especially if you share...yikes

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

Just shows that social media such as Facebook are valuable resources as well as just the social aspect. Thanks for the post Jake.
It is wonderful to know that new species are being found in all different countries.