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  • Andrew M. Durso
    Florida Gulf Coast UniversityUniversity of Geneva
  • Isabelle Bolon
    University of Geneva
  • A.R. Kleinhesselink
    University of California, Los Angeles
  • M.R. Mondardini
    University of Zürich
  • J.L. Fernandez-Marquez
    University of Geneva
  • F. Gutsche-Jones
    University of Zürich
  • C. Gwilliams
    University of Zürich
  • M. Tanner
    University of Zürich
  • Christopher E. Smith
  • Wolfgang Wüster
  • F. Grey
    University of Geneva
  • R. Ruiz de Castañeda
    University of Geneva
Species identification can be challenging for biologists, healthcare practitioners and members of the general public. Snakes are no exception, and the potential medical consequences of venomous snake misidentification can be significant. Here, we collected data on identification of 100 snake species by building a week-long online citizen science challenge which attracted more than 1000 participants from around the world. We show that a large community including both professional herpetologists and skilled avocational snake enthusiasts with the potential to quickly (less than 2 min) and accurately (69–90%; see text) identify snakes is active online around the clock, but that only a small fraction of community members are proficient at identifying snakes to the species level, even when provided with the snake’s geographical origin. Nevertheless, participants showed great enthusiasm and engagement, and our study provides evidence that innovative citizen science/crowdsourcing approaches can play
significant roles in training and building capacity. Although identification by an expert familiar with the local snake fauna will always be the gold standard, we suggest that healthcare workers, clinicians, epidemiologists and other parties interested in snakebite could become more connected to these communities, and that professional herpetologists and skilled avocational snake enthusiasts could organize ways to help connect medical professionals to crowdsourcing platforms. Involving skilled avocational snake enthusiasts in decision making could build the capacity of healthcare workers to identify snakes more quickly, specifically and accurately, and ultimately improve snakebite treatment data and outcomes.


  • biodiversity, citizen science, item response theory, misidentification, online challenge, venomous snakebite
Original languageEnglish
Article number201273
Number of pages21
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2021

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