Scaling Up and Exploring Marsh (SUEM)



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An ecosystem is a community of plants and animals. They support agricultural needs and provide clean air and water. However, recent environmental changes such as global warming and rising sea level caused a need to study these ecosystems. Ecological problems have the specificity of being dependent on biological elements with complex interactions. New tools are therefore needed to go past biological constraints and take into account the complexity of living ecosystems.

Data acquisition was done for six years at Sapelo Island located in Georgia. The sampling area was approximately 3,200 square meters. Annually around 10,000 images were captured of a sampling area.

Manually examining of a substantial amount of spatially explicit data is very laborious and resource consuming. The idea is to involve the general public in ecology projects, first train them in identifying species and then allowing them to identify these species. Thus, there was a need to develop a systematic way of accumulating, parameterizing and validating the volunteer’s contribution to these projects.

Two ecology projects were developed as Web-based games. The first game, Scaling Up Marsh Science was developed to create a detailed mosaic of the sampling area by stitching multiple overlapping images. Applying automatic methods for image alignment and stitching did not produce precise results due to various factors such as perspective error, moving animals, amount of overlapping, shadows. The second game, Marsh Explorer was developed to get an exact description of the sampling area such as identification of the plants and animals species together with their locations. The final output of this game delivers a detailed summary of the sampling area.

This thesis adds to the previous versions of these games basic gaming features such as player ranking, game levels, awards, guided training, player feedback system, administrative tools, image uploader, and database redesign. To date, approximately 400 volunteer players are contributing to these two projects.



Scale-up, Marsh Science, Volunteer computing, Ecology, Computer science, Ecology Game