Welcome to YellWild! Yellowstone’s Wildlife Science Contest

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Crowdsource for Wildlife and turn your camera and smart phone images of Yellowstone’s charismatic species into technology that will power the next generation of wildlife conservation and research.

From July through October 2019, the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center (YERC) is organizing a crowdsourcing effort to collect images of wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park. YERC will use these images to develop new “smart” technologies that will help researchers and park managers monitor and predict the movement of wildlife. YERC will use collected images to detect and count the ratio of mothers to their young, differentiate species from each other (elk-deer, grizzly bear-black bear, coyote-wolf, etc.) at a distance, and even recognize the unique markings--like facial markings, tails, antlers, and body profiles--of individual animals! This information will be used to improve the safety of people and animals, help land managers maintain healthy wildlife populations, and make smart conservation decisions. (Read on to find out about contest prizes and an important tip on how to get a prize-winning photo!)

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How it Works

It’s a contest!  We need to collect a constant supply of images from the field. Each animal image you submit must be tagged with the GPS coordinates.  We need hundreds of pictures of certain species in certain environments and conditions. Our challenge is focused on species of special concern--the ungulates and carnivores--as they continually face their own challenges.

We believe the best way to accomplish that is with the YellWild Contest!  

Every three weeks through July, August, September and October, YERC will give prizes for specific animal image scenes. What we need and the prizes we offer are listed below. Be sure to check back as we’re adding more every month. Receive special prizes!

How to Participate

It’s easy using the iNaturalist app.

To get started,  download the iNaturalist app to your phone, and follow the simple instructions below.

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Once you have downloaded iNaturalist, here’s what you need to do:

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  1. Create your iNaturalist Account

  2. Under “More” go to “Projects”, search for “YERC,” and join the project called “YERC YellWild Summer 2019”

  3. Turn on your GPS!  (Very important)

  4. Start taking pictures and submit!

  5. That's it!

A team of trained identifiers will review your image and label it for the animals that appear in it, or, validate the classification you made through iNaturalist.

Your images will be automatically entered into one of the challenges, listed below.  For example, if you take a picture of a pronghorn antelope, and our “identifiers” confirm it, it will automatically appear on the pronghorn challenge board.  Check out what it takes to win below. The best match wins!

The Challenges

Round One runs from…...

Round One runs from Sunday, July 21st to Saturday, August 10th, ending at 11:59PM Mountain Time. The challenges included in Round One are listed below. Round Two will begin Sunday, August 11th at midnight.

Ungulate Challenge:


Challenge Category: Best Headshot - Pronghorn
Description: Take the best research grade headshot of a Pronghorn, with facial markings clearly visible.
Awards: 2 YERC Hats, 1 map, $25 gift card

Challenge Category: Most Ungulate Species Body Profiles
Description: Body profile images show the animal’s side, instead of solely its head or hindquarters. Take the highest number of research grade profile shots of Bison, Moose and Elk.
Awards: 2 YERC Hats, 1 map, $50 gift card

Challenge Category: Best Field Specialist - Pronghorn
Description: Take the highest number of research grade images of Pronghorn, from any angle.
Awards: 1 YERC hat, 1 map

Challenge Category: Best Field Specialist - Mule Deer
Description: Take the highest number of research grade images of Mule Deer, from any angle.
Awards: 1 YERC hat, 1 map

Challenge Category: Most Mother with Young-of-the Year Award
Description: Take the highest number of research grade images of ungulates accompanied by young in the same image.
Awards: 2 YERC hats, 1 map, $50 gift card

Ranger of the Day Challenge


Challenge Category: Ranger of the Day
Description: Awarded to the iNaturalist user who captures the most overall images of carnivores and ungulates on Saturday, August 3rd!
Awards: 2 YERC hats, 1 map, $25 gift card

Carnivore Challenge:


Challenge Category: Best Body Profile Dog Family - Wolf, coyote, or red fox
Description: Body profile images show the animal’s side, instead of solely its head or hindquarters. Take the highest number of research grade profile shots of Red Fox, Wolf or Coyote.
Awards: 2 YERC hats, 1 map

Challenge Category: Most Bear Body Profiles: Black or Grizzly bear
Description: Body profile images show the animal’s side, instead of solely its head or hindquarters. Take the highest number of research-grade profile shots of Grizzly or Black Bears.
Awards: 2 YERC hats, 1 map

Challenge Category: Most Carnivore Species Body Profile
Description: Body profile images show the animal’s side, instead of solely its head or hindquarters. Take the highest number of research grade profile shots that illustrate carnivores.
Awards: 1 YERC hat, 1 map

Challenge Category: Most Mother and young-of-the-year Award
Description: Take the highest number of research grade images of carnivores accompanied by young in the same image.
Awards: 2 YERC hats, 1 map, $50 gift card

The Prizes

Best award ever… YERC will use these images to train a computer via a process called machine learning to automatically recognize the animals and scenes in the image.  Like Waze but for wildlife traffic, this will help managers track animals and their habits better without having to tag them - and also to help us understand what adding a predator to a specific area might do!

Hats, Maps, and Gift Card Awards

Prize #1: YERC Maps: Our high quality maps are produced by the famous ‘Raven Maps’ of Alan Cartography. These 27” x 50” wall maps illustrate the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and includes many biophysical features and habitats.

Prize #2: YERC Hats: For this challenge we will proudly add YellWild to the back of our hats so that your other natural history scientists will know.

Prize #3: Amazon Gift Cards: We also offer $25 and $50 gift cards for select awards.

Winners will be notified through their iNaturalist accounts.  See below for more details.

Prize #1: YERC Map

 

Prize #2: YERC hat with logo, and we will be adding 'bright green' lettering YellWild on the back of the hat.

So how close do I need to be to get a prize-winning photo?

A better question would be, How close is too close, both for my safety and for the animal’s?

At YERC, for every project — whether you are paid staff, a volunteer, or a contest participant — we always require that the following priorities be followed (in order):

#1 — Crew safety (which includes contest participants)

#2 — Mitigating negative impacts our research has on the resource (wildlife, plants, landscape, infrastructure, other visitors, etc.)

#3 — Project objectives (in this case, collecting high quality photos)

That means, if you can’t get a photo without putting yourself in an unsafe situation, or without stressing the animal, causing damage, or interfering with someone else’s experience, then don’t do it! It isn’t worth it, not even for one of our awesome maps or hats!

Yellowstone National Park requires that all visitors stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from all other large animals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn, but for those of us familiar with wildlife behavior, even those distances seem awfully close. Consider getting a telephoto lens for your camera or smartphone, or a spotting scope and a smartphone adapter, before you head out into the field (you will get better photos that way, so it will be well worth the investment!)

You might be wondering, How do I know if an animal is stressed or not? That bison is grazing away and doesn’t seem to care that I am here, so he must not be stressed, right? The fact is, it is very difficult for us humans, even wildlife experts, to visually observe an animal’s stress level. A recent study in Minnesota investigated the effect of drones buzzing over black bears fitted with heart rate monitors, and researchers reviewing the drone’s camera footage found that the bears apparently were not bothered by the drones: the bears never looked up or stopped foraging when the drone flew by. But when they reviewed the heart rate data, they found significant increases for every bear, every time the drone was present. This shows us how difficult it is to visually tell that an animal is stressed, and a little stress can have a big impact when you are living in an environment as rugged as Yellowstone.

So, take care and use sound judgement when you head out with your camera, and remember, our goals with this contest are to collect data to benefit wildlife conservation without causing more harm than good in the process, and to get folks like you involved in wildlife conservation in ways that are safe, meaningful, and fun!

Don’t be like these people! Please take your photos from a safe and respectful distance.  Trent Sizemore photo

Don’t be like these people! Please take your photos from a safe and respectful distance. Trent Sizemore photo

The Rules and Regulations

By participating in the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center (henceforth “YERC”) YellWild Contest, you agree to be bound by all the terms and conditions as set out below.  

NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. INTERNET ACCESS IS REQUIRED TO ENTER.   VOID WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. BY ENTERING, ENTRANT AGREES TO BE BOUND BY THESE OFFICIAL RULES AND THE DECISIONS OF THE JUDGES, WHICH SHALL BE FINAL IN ALL RESPECTS.

  • YERC uses the bioblitz feature of the iNaturalist application to conduct this contest.  Participants in this contest are subject to the privacy terms and conditions stipulated by the iNaturalist application and website.  The iNaturalist terms and regulations and privacy statement can be found here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/terms 

  • You must scrupulously follow the posted rules and regulations of the National Park Service and surrounding public and private lands that you visit while participating in this challenge. Take the Yellowstone Pledge.

  • You must not cheat.

  • ELIGIBILITY: Participation in this contest is open to all iNaturalist account users who hold an active iNaturalist account in good standing (i.e. not restricted or limited) and have uploaded at least one eligible observation.  Eligible observations include:

    • Images and observations captured through the iNaturalist mobile application, or uploaded through the iNaturalist website, that are also accurately tagged with the GPS coordinates of the location from which the image was captured.

    • Image and observations from paved or otherwise designated observation areas throughout the park, from the roadside, or from officially marked hiking trails inside or outside of the park.  YERC will not accept image observations that do not meet these requirements.

    • Image and observations that are marked “Research” grade by iNaturalist.  Research grade observations in this challenge are photo observations that have GPS coordinates, are not of cultivated or captured species, and are identified by two or more separate reviewers whereby more than 2/3rds of the reviewers have agreed on a taxon.

    • Images and observations that are shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license, or shared under the No Copywrite CC0 license, or the Creative Commons Attribution license.  The image below illustrates the license type setting on iNaturalist, with CC-BY-NC accepted:

 
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We hope you enjoy our contest and can 'fit us in' (like this fox) your adventure schedule in magical Yellowstone country. You never know what you'll run into along it's roads and trails.

We hope you enjoy our contest and can 'fit us in' (like this fox) your adventure schedule in magical Yellowstone country. You never know what you'll run into along it's roads and trails.

The following persons and their immediate family members are not eligible: employees of YERC; and persons or employees of any company which are directly or indirectly involved in carrying out of this contest.

  • WINNERS AND JUDGING:  The criteria for submission and winning is defined under the section labeled “The Challenges” above.  YERC judges will rank submissions by iNaturalist users according to that user’s compliance with the criteria listed for each challenge and award the user who in YERC’s sole estimation best fulfills that criteria.

    • YERC will contact winners through iNaturalist, therefore, users must accept “Messages” under “Email Settings”, accessible from “Account Settings.”

    • All species and image classifications or labels by the YERC “identifiers” are final.

    • YERC may decline any submitted image for any reason.

    • All prize decisions by YERC are final.

  • AWARDS:  Awards will be shipped within 30 working days from YERC’s verification of the winner’s identity. Should a winner be disqualified for reasons including but not limited to fraud, unauthorized intervention or an account is found not to be in good standing, YERC reserves the right to select and announce an alternative winner for the prize. If the winner has not attained the age of majority in state of residence, the prize will be awarded in the name of a parent or guardian. By accepting and/or using a prize, winner consents to the use of his/her name, voice and/or likeness for the purpose of advertising, trade, or promotion without further compensation, unless prohibited by law and upon request will provide such consent in writing. In the event a winner does not accept the prize after 3 months of notification or does not respond to YERC notifications, YERC reserves the right to select and announce an alternate winner for the prize. 

  • EXCLUSION/LIMITATION OF LIABILITY: YERC and its representatives shall not be responsible or liable to any participant for any loss or damage whatsoever which may be suffered or incurred by a participant as a result of his/her participation in this contest including, without limitation, any loss or damage which may be suffered or incurred by any participant as a result of: a. any wrongful act or omission on the part of any third party; b. any failure to receive or process any entry; c. any computing, telecommunications or equipment failure or malfunction; d. any submission and/or notice which is misdirected or lost in the postal system or email communication. In no event shall YERC and its representatives be liable to any participant for any indirect, special or consequential loss or damage (including, but not limited to, loss of income, profits or goodwill), howsoever arising.