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