In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series meet one of our Chicago based developers, Will Granger
Name: Will Granger
Location: Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL, USA
Tell us about your role within the team:
I’ve been with the Zooniverse team since Spring 2016 when I started as a Web Developer. Since then, I’ve expanded my roles a bit helping out with mobile development, when needed. Currently, my main project is working on a touch table application for Galaxy Zoo which should be at the Adler Planetarium Summer 2019.
What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?
I’ve led many lives before joining the Zooniverse; however, my main occupation was teaching. I taught in various K – 12 schools in Alabama with non-profits and as a substitute teacher. I also spent a couple years overseas with the Peace Corps teaching at a university in Ukraine. Intermittently, I also spent some time opening a music venue in Alabama and touring in various bands.
What does your typical working day involve?
My typical working day involves keeping my eye on several code bases while also trying to develop the touch table application. Usually, I’ll spend part of the day doing maintenance on custom projects and the main Zooniverse page before checking on any mobile updates that need review. After that, I’ll continue building out the touch table, adding new features weekly.
How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?
The Zooniverse is always expanding.
Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with
The first Zooniverse project I worked on was Astronomy Rewind. My task was to create a sort of astronomical calculator to take coordinates of celestial objects (RA, DEC, etc.) and put those into the World Wide Telescope API to see how images and charts from astronomical journals would appear in space. This was my first task as a web developer, and I was constantly under the impression that every change I made would break the Zooniverse. In the end, my work succeeded and I looked back with satisfaction that I was able to convert once-intimidating Astrometry calculations into code.
Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable?
It’s difficult to choose one, but I’d say the discovery of a new exoplanet system during Stargazing Live in 2017 was the most exciting for me. Our team spent the prior month or so preparing for a spike of people visiting the site, and it was rewarding to see our work pay off, especially as the volunteer who made the discovery was interview on the BBC program.
What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?
The first Zooniverse Team Meeting I attended was memorable. Our team is more or less separated between Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oxford, and we have the opportunity to meet together once a year. It was nice to meet everyone in person I had been working with since I started at the Zooniverse, especially since we were able to spend time after work hours getting to know each other in Chicago.
What are your top three citizen science projects?
Anti-Slavery Manuscripts: This project is important to me because it was one of the first projects I took a lead on, and we did several new things with the Zooniverse, such as saving classifications in progress to return to later.
Galaxy Zoo: The longest running project on the Zooniverse deserves a mention, and I’m glad to be a part of the transition of this project to a touch table.
Snapshot Serengeti: Any camera trap project deserves a mention here, but it’s exciting to see what animal(s) will show up on an image.
What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?
Taking a look at several active projects is a good first step. It’s good to have some ideas on how to setup a project if you’re more familiar with the breadth of projects available on the Zooniverse. Next, I’d play around with the project builder, even create a few test projects to make sure you know how those tools can be used. Once your familiar with that, I think a team should be in a good place to start implementing a project.
How can someone who’s never contributed to a citizen science project get started?
I’d recommend downloading the Zooniverse app and finding a swipe workflow to work on. These projects are easy to get into an would open the door to other projects we have on the Zooniverse. iNaturalist is also another citizen-science project worth checking out with an app available for download.
Where do you hope citizen science and the Zooniverse will be in 10 years time?
I hope we are able to grow in ways beyond our online presence. We have already started doing this with the mobile app and touch table, but I’m curious how this will continue developing in the future as technology advances. I would also like to see the Zooniverse partner with more institutions. We have projects with some Chicago-area museums, but it would be great to see the Zoooniverse in museums around the globe.
Is there anything in the Zooniverse pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m excited to see how the Zooniverse will partner with new telescopes being sent to space. In the next several years, there will be many advancements in data collection for such telescopes, and I think the Zooniverse can help researchers in their data collection.
When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?
I’m often at a show somewhere in Chicago. It’s great to live in such a large city where bands on tour make it a point to play a show. It’s always great to head out and see artists from bucket-list bands to friends coming through.
Do you have any party tricks or hidden talents?
I used to speak Russian fluently from living in Ukraine, but my skills are now a bit rusty. Writing people’s names in Cyrillic is always a crowd-pleaser.