Snake ID

What is This Challenge About?

Venomous snakebite is responsible for over 125,000 deaths and around three times as many permanent disabilities every year, mostly affecting poor and rural communities in the parts of the world where snake diversity is the highest. One of the reasons of this crisis is that healthcare providers working in these areas are limited in their herpetological expertise & access to resources. Same can be said for local people and communities.

Our ultimate goal is to support them with better tools to face this challenge. We are working on creating tools that anyone can use to identify snakes, using a combination of humans and artificial intelligence, in order to help clinicians better treat snakebite cases, educate people, and at the same time improve snake conservation and help scientists discover new species.

The number of known snake species is growing rapidly, projected to reach 4,000 by 2030. Through a combination of field work in remote areas of the world, better organized data portals for natural history museum collections, and new techniques in molecular systematics, scientists have access to new data about snake biodiversity nearly every day. However, most laypeople can only identify a handful of species, and even professional herpetologists may have expertise in only a certain geographic area or taxonomic group.

But you are passionate experts!

For our applications, your knowledge is uniquely valuable, as someday your rapid IDs could help save the life of a person. This is already happening organically through email and platforms such as WhatsApp & Facebook snake ID groups, and we are collaborating with them to capture data on the speed & accuracy of the process. Eventually we’ll compare the results obtained with the crowd (you!) to the ones obtained with Artificial Intelligence, setting the stage for a human vs. machine showdown like those over chess, Go, and Jeopardy.

We count on you doing your best—if it helps, you can pretend the snake in the photo has just bitten someone & you’ve been asked to provide an ID!

  • You do not have to be a snake expert to participate.
  • The challenge contains more than 2000 images of hundreds of snake species from around the world.
  • We'll measure how long it takes you to submit your ID, but there's no time limit.
  • It's OK to use print & digital resources to help yourself narrow down or arrive at an ID.
  • It's OK to make educated guesses, including at the genus or family level.
  • It’s OK to use the context of the original tweet to help narrow down your ID.
  • You may see the same images more than once, although we have tried to filter these out. You may occasionally see a few images of things that are not snakes, which you can tag as “Not a snake”.
  • Unlike last time, you may also see images of dead snakes.
  • You can enter common names in English as well as scientific names. We're using mostly the taxonomy from HerpMapper, with support from The Reptile Database. If you can't find a name you want, please send us feedback using the form. Most names should be available at least as synonyms. We do not intend to take any stance on taxonomy or nomenclature.

Project Team

This is a highly interdisciplinary project bringing together herpetologists and key players in global health.

  • Dr. Rafael Ruiz de Castañeda, Institute of Global Health, UNIGE
  • Dr. Isabelle Bolon, Institute of Global Health, UNIGE
  • Dr. Andrew Durso, Institute of Global Health, UNIGE
  • Prof. François Chappuis, Division of humanitarian and tropical medicine, HUG/UNIGE
  • Dr. Gabriel Alcoba, MSF and Division of humanitarian and tropical medicine, HUG/UNIGE
  • Dr. Nicolas Ray, Institute of environmental sciences & Institute of Global Health, UNIGE
  • Prof. Marcel Salathe, Digital Epidemiology Lab, EPFL
  • Sharada Prasanna Mohanty, Digital Epidemiology Lab, EPFL
  • Prof. François Grey, Citizen Cyberlab, UNIGE
  • Dr. Jose Luis Fernandez, Citizen Cyberlab, UNIGE
  • Rosy Mondardini, Citizen Science Center Zurich, ETH / UNIZH
  • Prof. David Williams, Global Snakebite Initiative, University of Melbourne
  • Dr. Abiy Tamrat, Médecins Sans Frontières, Geneva
  • Hanne Epstein, Médecins Sans Frontières, Copenhagen
  • Donald Becker, Christopher Smith, Michael Pingleton, HerpMapper
  • M. Jose Louies, IUCN Viper Specialist Group, &
  • Dr. Brian Lohse, AntiVenom Venture & University of Copenhagen
  • Dr. Ulrich Kuch, University of Frankfurt, Germany

Image Sources

All images in this challenge were collected from Twitter, in accordance with their terms of service. Links to the original context may be found in the top left corner of each image. The photographers retain the copyright to their images. If you recognize an image that you don’t think should be available for use, please flag it for our review.

Project Partners

This project supports Goal 3 of the UN SDGs: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and in particular Target 3.3 on ending neglected tropical disease. The Sustainable Development Goals

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