Jungle Rhythms: find the rhythm of tropical trees

This week I launched a new Zooniverse project, Jungle Rhythms, that aims to digitize thousands of pages of detailed historical observations of the life cycle of trees in Africa.

Belgian scientists were stationed at the Yangambi Research Station in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1938 until 1958 as part of an agriculture-based research project. During that time, the scientists – for reasons unknown– also began collecting detailed observations on the life cycle of trees in the local forest. Those observations were kept in a series of notebooks, and later summarized in large tables, which were discovered, nearly 80 years later, stored in an archive under less-than-ideal conditions.

An example summary table showing how observations are divided into separate years.

To avoid losing the data as the pages crumbled, I digitized the tables in the hopes of using computers to automatically capture the data, but quickly realized the marks were simply too faint.

Faint markings in a summary table, which are difficult to annotate using computer algorithms.

The project’s ultimate goal is to preserve the data for future study. Similar to Season Spotter, it also gives the public an up-close-and-personal view on how scientific research is conducted.

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About Koen Hufkens

I’m a research associate at Harvard University where my time is divided between modelling plant phenology across various biomes in response to climate change, being the lab geek and intrepid open source hardware and software developer.
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