The Hows and Whys of Hashtagging

The sad part for us camera trap researchers working on projects such as “Eyes on the Wild” is that we rarely get to see the camera trap images themselves! We pop our pictures online and, thanks to your monumental efforts, are handed back the spreadsheets of numbers that we need to run our analyses. Almost all of the actual image handling is done by volunteers - which means that all of the rare behaviors, interesting interactions, and exciting new discoveries that are lurking in these images are going to be made by citizen scientists like you! We can’t always anticipate what novel behaviors or rare species might have been captured by the camera traps, which means that we can’t ask you about it in the questions we’ve written up on the website. I mean, who would have thought to add a click box for “one-antlered unicorn deer”? One way that you can alert us to these novel findings is to comment with a #hashtag when you’re making your classification. Researchers can then search through all of these interesting, unusual, and noteworthy observations you have made – some of which could lead to some cool new science that you can be a part of! Zooniverse has a history of volunteers who alerted scientists to oddities discovered while classifying data becoming authors on their own real scientific research.

It is important, however, to be selective and choose to hashtag only unusual images or those with some scientific relevance. Think about what might be useful to the scientists or other citizen scientist classifiers before hashtagging! It is not necessary to hashtag every image for discussion, and shifting through hundreds of hashtags can be hard for our research team. Here, we just wanted to give you a quick guide to what would be helpful to hashtag in order for both volunteers and researchers to learn the most about these images:
  • Hashtag with a species identification if you know the specific species for a classification that might contain multiple species (e.g., “#baldeagle” if the classification is “birds of prey”, or “frog” is the classification is “reptiles and amphibians”)
  • Hashtag with a species identification if you find a species that isn’t listed as an option on our website (who knows - there might be some #bobcats or #opossums hiding out in Cedar Creek!)
  • You don’t need to hashtag an image with data we already get out of your classification (e.g., “#deer” or “#antlers”) – no new information comes from the extra work you put in!
  • Hashtag unusual or inexplicable behaviors with a self-explanatory hashtag so that we can easily find unexpected animal activities (#grooming, #swimming, or #fighting would be examples of behaviors we would be interested to learn more about)
  • If you see something that is confusing to you and you want a researcher or expert opinion, hashtag with #askareseacher, and we’ll see if we can figure out what’s going on in your picture
  • If you added a hashtag that turned out to be incorrect, please click on the edit button below the comment to delete the # symbol
  • We also love the beautiful pictures you find and the funny hashtags you come up with for these pics – keep up the good work, guys! These types of images are used by our scientists and teachers in research and in promotional or educational material.

The main message here is to think before you hashtag: Why am I tagging this image? Does it really warrant it? This way, we can easily connect with the truly amazing finds you come across in our data! Happy classifying!


  1. Does it make a difference whether we put in a # or not? Do you follow the comments differently depending on whether there is a hashtag?

    Also I have been using the talk boxes to ask questions, and I have gotten answers. Is that a reasonable way to do it, or is some other route better?

    And while I'm asking things - how many cams are there? I have considered trying to figure that out from the images, but then I haven't. It would be cool if you told us about the people, too - especially the ones we keep seeing in the summer images! (Though I also thought of suggesting that that when they are in front of the cam working, you might turn the cam off, so we are not classifying all the pictures of humans.)

    And one more - what's the system for indicating two different species in one image? It didn't seem to be possible, when I was watching the turkey and deer party together.

    Looking forward to replies somewhere!

    1. Hi Joy! I'll get a blog post up tomorrow about classifying multiple species. It's totally possible and really important! We cover it in the tutorial a bit, but I'll go into more depth in a blog post momentarily. And I've pinged Meredith to answer your great questions about the research project!

      You can read about the people on the project (the researchers at least, not as much the interns who are also on camera from time to time) as well as the details of the layout in the About tab on the zooniverse site: (click Team to see who we are! and maybe we can get a blog post together about the Cedar Creek summer staff and interns in general - I'll add it to the list!). We have 100 cameras in our grid, plus another 20 or so that we move around to various locations where they might catch interesting wildlife on the roads.

      Asking questions. The talk boards are a totally fine way to do it - I keep up with them as much as I can given my other work responsibilities. :) There are several discussion boards, in case you've only found the Notes one. We've gone one devoted to Troubleshooting, another to General Project Questions, etc. (click Talk on the top right of your Zooniverse page, or go to Sometimes things get lost in the deluge of comments on photos, so feel free to post in one of the other boards if you think I've missed something!

      Thanks for the great questions!

    2. Whoops, got your two posts mixed up in my head! Meredith will answer your research questions on the other post! :) I think the one I missed here is about hashtagging. We actually have a whole blog post about the topic!

      The rule of thumb with hashtags is that less is more. I don't weight them any differently in going through comments, and the main thing that goes into our exported data sheet (which we'll blog about down the line) is what you enter in the classification tool screen. So hashtag if you find something really noteworthy, specific or unusual and otherwise don't worry about it. :)


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