Training the Machines II

We wanted to thank all the Notes from Nature volunteers who helped with Training the Machines I, which focused on Prunus – the cherries, plums, almonds, peaches and nectarines.  We don’t yet have the accuracy of our NFN volunteers compared to a gold standard dataset we created, but we are hard at work on that. We do have reconciliations done, which provide some information about how consistent everyone was, and here are some of those results:  For flowers, there were 2775 strict matches (all three agreed) and 223 majority matches.  For fruits, there were 2,663 strict matches and 335 majority rule matches.  And for leaves unfolded, there were 2,589 matches and 409 majority rule matches.  These are mostly encouraging results!

We also are going to be looking at other interesting questions with the results from this expedition, including some trends in accuracy over time — does scoring more samples mean people get better at this? Or maybe fatigue sets in? We also want to look at accuracy over different species — some might be more challenging than others (we are looking at you, desert almond!). We also see if strict or majority are more likely to be right or wrong. Anyway, we have some key hypotheses to test and we are working on those results and will report more. And of course all this work will be feeding into approaches to scale up machine learning, which we think is exciting – and which we also will have more to share with you soon.

We also need to ask for your help once more, this time on the plant group Acer, the maples. Acer, like Prunus, is well studied for phenology, and has an impressive historical and current record of observation. But Acer can also be challenging (talking to _you_, box elders!). So please pay close attention the help guides which can really help you out here.

Also, your work is really helping out @naturalista, who will be working on a dissertation chapter and papers comparing these results, so thank you so much for the help, and hopefully you will really enjoy this expedition focused on maples, an iconic shade tree that is especially valued in the heat of the summer.

— Rob Guralnick, University of Florida

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