Despite the importance of using phenomic (morphological, behavioral, etc…) data for phylogenetic tree-building, scientists have often found phenomic data collection to be a slow process. The Evolution Project is an NSF-sponsored experiment by a team of scientists to make data collection go faster using crowd sourcing.
That's where you come in! Using the tools on this website, you can help scientists build the Tree of Life by identifying character traits in various specimen images.
To contribute your observations you must sign up to create an account. This way we can keep track of what projects your contributing to and what tasks you've worked on. Follow the "sign up" link in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Already registered? Just use the "login" link to sign in.
Sign up for an account
Once you've logged in, follow the "Projects" link to see a list of the projects you can contribute to. Each project has a series of "Tasks" you can work on. Once you have started working on a project, you can use this page to keep track of your progress and see how many remaining tasks are available for each project.
Selecting a project from the Projects page will take you to a project detail page where you can learn more about the project and the team of scientists who are behind it. You will also see a list of the "Tasks" you can chose to work on.
When you first access the project, you may notice some grey, "Locked" tasks. Tasks can appear locked if they have a difficulty level that is higher than your user status. As a new user your status is "Intern". As you complete more tasks and contribute more observations, it changes to "Research Assistant" and ultimately "Lab Assistant". When logged in, your status is displayed at the top right of the screen.
Tasks can also be locked if they are dependent on another task which needs to be completed beforehand. For example, the absence of a particular trait can make a dependent task inapplicable. In either case, text appears over the task to indicate why the task is not yet available to you.
As you complete tasks, they are moved to the bottom of the list under the heading "Completed Tasks".
Each task consists of a slideshow of images you are asked to evaluate for the presence of an anatomical characteristic. In the right hand column of the task screen under the heading "TASK INFO", you will see information to help guide you in your decision making process.
You can use the orange "Next" and "Previous" buttons above the main image to navigate between slides in a task. This way you can survey the task before you start working on it or go back to change a previous selection.
You can use the magnifying glass icon beside images to view larger versions and see labels the scientists have added to the image to point out the referenced anatomical characteristics. Once you understand the options presented to you at the bottom of the screen, examine the large image and select the one that best describes what you see.
If you're not sure what option best describes the image, you can choose to skip the slide. Clicking the "Not sure? Click here to skip to the next slide" link will display a comment form where you can leave an optional comment about why you felt uncertain. This information can help scientists to address issues with their data that prevent users from successfully interacting with it.
Skip and image in a task
You are also encouraged to use the "Send Feedback" form to email comments to the project team about your user experience.
When you have completed your current task, you will be prompted to leave optional feedback, and select another task or project to work on. You will also be shown how your choices rank against others in the community.
Completing a Task