Sep 6, 2018

'Twitter mining' for ants, spiders and birds

Twitter is set to become a very useful resource in the study of certain animal behaviours, scientists say. A new study trawled the public's postings on the micro-blogging site to see if they accurately reflected some popular ecological phenomena in the UK. These events included the sightings of flying ants in summer, and the emergence of house spiders in autumn. "In the future, our tendency to share everything could be an absolute goldmine for scientists using this type of 'passive citizen science'," he told the BBC. The prof can be heard talking about his Twitter mining on this week's Science In Action programme on the World Service. Twitter users have the option of geo-tagging all their posts, but many choose not to do this. Trying to replicate data for starling murmurations was less successful than for the flying ants and house spiders, and could provide no useful information to investigate the types of questions scientists had - such as whether the murmurations were influenced by the presence of birds of prey.

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