The World is a Natural Laboratory, and Social Media is the New Petri Dish

Perspective by Jean-Loup Rault et al in Ethology: “Many high-priority and high-interest species are challenging to study due to the difficulty in accessing animals and/or obtaining sufficient sample sizes. The recent explosion in technology, particularly social media and live webcams available on the Internet, provides new opportunities for behavioral scientists to collect data not just on our own species, as well as new resources for teaching and outreach. We discuss here the possibility of exploiting online media as a new source of behavioral data, which we termed ‘video mining’. This article proposes epidemiological and ethological field techniques to gather and screen online media as a data source on diverse taxa. This novel method provides access to a rich source of untapped knowledge, particularly to study the behavior of understudied species or sporadic behaviors, but also for teaching or monitoring animals in challenging settings.”