On most autumn days, David Sopjes can be found in the Eel River in Northwest California counting fish. As a retired high school science teacher and citizen scientist, Sopjes has spent the last 10 years monitoring the Chinook salmon population in the Eel River, which he says has the third-largest watershed in the state. Every fall, Sopjes counts the salmon as they wait for the winter rains to reproduce.
Before getting a drone three years ago, Sopjes and his colleagues counted the salmon by snorkeling in the river and standing on paddleboards, both of which greatly disturbed the fish and weren’t very accurate.
The drone produced clear photographs of the salmon, but counting the fish in the images using pen and paper was tedious. While scouring the internet for a better method to count and organize his data, he found a software called DotDotGoose and has been using it ever since.
Designed at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, DotDotGoose is a free, open-source tool that assists researchers with manually counting objects in images. Peter Ersts, the senior software developer at the center, created DotDotGoose in May 2019. He got the idea through discussions with colleagues.