Dr. Vanessa Fry, Dr. Sara Hagenah, and Dr. Carl Siebert
STEM organizations operate thousands of publicly available webcams, which have the potential to provide rich informal learning opportunities. To date, no research has analyzed the breadth of STEM webcams. In our study, we developed an inventory by performing internet searches for US-based STEM webcams and recorded operator name, organization type, webcam subject, etc. This inventory serves as the basis for a follow-up survey of webcam operators, which seeks to better understand the goals, outcomes, and investments of STEM webcam programs. We characterized nearly 1000 webcams that fit within our inclusion criteria. The majority of the cams fell within the life sciences or geosciences. Of the animal webcams, mammals (60%) and birds (23%) were strongly represented in contrast to reptiles (2%) and insects (4%). Within the mammal subjects, tigers, elephants, otters, and giraffes were most common (5-7% each). Within the 23 different bird webcam subjects, penguins (30%) and osprey (20%) were most common. Other studies have shown the over-representation of charismatic animals (e.g., elephants, giraffes, tigers, bears) in zoos, and our study suggests that webcams may amplify this phenomenon. Further, these preliminary results suggest that life sciences topics dominate STEM webcams, leaving potential for other visually engaging fields to participate.
Zabihi Gilvan, Anahita N.; Thomson, Abigail; Schulwitz, Sarah E.; Fry, Vanessa; Hagenah, Sara; McClure, Christopher J.W.; Rolek, Brian; Katzner, Erin; Haynes, Meagan; and Siebert, Carl, "Characteristics of US-Based STEM Webcams at a Glance" (2022). 2022 Undergraduate Research Showcase. 42.