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UW Doctoral Candidate’s Raccoon Research Highlighted on ‘Science Friday’ Program

April 24, 2020
woman holding a raccoon
Lauren Stanton, a UW Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Ecology, is part of the University of Wyoming Raccoon Project that will be spotlighted on Science Friday Wednesday, April 29, from 2-2:45 p.m. MDT, via Facebook Live and Zoom. (UW Photo)

Research on raccoons conducted by the University of Wyoming’s Lauren Stanton will be featured on an upcoming livestream event hosted by Science Friday.

The UW Raccoon Project will be spotlighted Wednesday, April 29, from 2-2:45 p.m. MDT, via Facebook Live and Zoom. The program is described as: “These ‘trash pandas’ have been training all year, and it’s time to crown the raccoon superlatives. Who do you think deserves to win most athletic, best dressed and teacher’s pet?”

Science Friday hosts a program today (Friday) at noon MDT that will help viewers learn how to engage with the Zooniverse platform at home ahead of viewing the raccoon program next week.

“We are currently collaborating with the citizen science platform Zooniverse on a National Science Foundation-funded project that asks citizen scientists to label images of Laramie raccoons from our puzzle-box experiments,” says Stanton, a UW Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Ecology from Brookeville, Md. “Volunteers can log onto the Zooniverse website and view pictures from our experiments and, when they see an animal, they draw a box around it and label what the species is.”

Stanton then will use the labeled images to train a machine-learning algorithm to identify different species and individual animals -- which has some important applications for all kinds of wildlife research, she says.

“Because the coronavirus is keeping everyone at home, people with time on their hands are looking for activities to participate in,” Stanton says. “Zooniverse has been getting a lot of traffic over the past couple of weeks. This includes our particular project.”

An initiative founded and led by the Adler Planetarium, the University of Oxford and the University of Minnesota, Zooniverse leverages more than 2 million volunteer “citizen scientists” from across the globe. It gives people of all ages, backgrounds and interests the chance to contribute to real scientific research with 100 active online projects.

Stanton’s work studying raccoon intelligence has been featured previously on Science Friday. To view the video, go here.

Stanton’s raccoon research also has been featured on the Wyoming Public Media podcast “HumaNature.” Stanton and UW alumna Rachel Fanelli tell the story of how the UW Raccoon Project worked to reunite Maggie, a lost border collie, with her owners after Maggie mysteriously turned up on the puzzle box one night. To listen to that podcast episode, go here.

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