Cricket Tales is a citizen science project, developed with the Wild Crickets research group at the University of Exeter. The Wild Cricket project is a long-term study aimed at understanding cricket behaviour, personalities and ageing. The researchers have rigged up hundreds of CCTV cameras in a secret field in Spain, each trained onto an individual cricket burrow. This means thousands of videos showcasing the intricate personal lives of the crickets. This footage needs to be watched in order to determine the various events that make up the life story of the insects. Until now, the data has been harvested from these videos by a few researchers spending months on end churning through the footage.
It turns out that each individual cricket has quite distinct characteristics, and we thought it would be fun to open up this process and make it into a citizen science project – partly to get some help and speed up the job, but also the vast quantity of material (hundreds of thousands of hours in total) has its own appeal – and it is great to be able to use it for a creative project like this. Citizen science is a powerful way to do research that would otherwise be impossible – it also provides a window into how scientific research is performed for people who otherwise wouldn't be exposed to it.
With any citizen science project (indeed any research project), we have to accept that the data will have a lot of 'noise' in it. Once the data comes in we'll be looking at the data quality versus basic player information (age, gender, device used) to do some research into whether we can design these projects more optimally in future.