As part of Citizen Science Month 2023, we’re sharing excerpts from ‘Into the Zooniverse’, a series of books celebrating the projects and people of the Zooniverse.

You can find and download all editions of ‘Into the Zooniverse’ here.

Snow Spotter

FALLING SNOW DOESN’T always make it to the ground. Trees break the fall, changing how much water is available in watersheds. The Snow Spotter project, led by researchers at the University of Washington, asks volunteers a single question: is there snow in the tree canopy? Addictively simple, with images so ethereal and serene you feel as though you are flipping through a coffee table book, Snow Spotter has been overwhelmingly successful on the Zooniverse. So much so, the project has expanded from the original sites in the United States, to include sites from Finland and Switzerland. An interactive map shows volunteers from where the images are taken. Snowfall interception (in this case, particularly by trees), is an important factor for modeling the future availability of fresh water in watersheds. Snow intercepted by trees is subject to sublimation, or, evaporation back to the atmosphere. Indeed, up to 60% of falling snow may be intercepted by trees, of which 25-45% will potentially be lost via sublimation. How much snow makes it to the watershed is important; during the dry season, ecosystems depend on this freshwater availability. Collecting snow interception data and pairing it with local effects (such as forest characteristics and weather patterns), will enable researchers to  fine tune their models, allowing for more accurate watershed availability predictions. 

Image credit: Snow Spotter Project

Summary by: Mary Westwood

Check out this project: here

View the full ‘Into the Zooniverse’ book: here