Snap-a-thons

What is a Snap-a-thon you may ask? Take a guess from one of three options below.

  1. A wildlife photography marathon.
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Source: Bored Panda

  1. A classification party with the Snapshot Wisconsin project.

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  1. A marathon for snapping turtles.
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Source: A.B. Sheldon, WDNR

 

If you selected option 2, you are right!

If you read our newsletter or visit our website often, you will notice that the Snapshot Wisconsin project generates a lot of data. We have collected nearly 21 million photos so far. These photos become useful to support wildlife management decisions only when they have a classification tag attached to them and their accuracy is reliable. We have help on hand – more than a thousand trail camera hosts and nearly six thousand Zooniverse volunteers helping us classify these pictures. The idea behind a Snap-a-thon is to spread the word about the project even farther while running a fun competition using the Zooniverse website.

How a Snap-a-thon works is very simple: participants team up or play alone to classify pictures on Snapshot Wisconsin’s Zooniverse page for a set amount of time, typically 20 minutes. Each team is given a checklist of species. During the competition, participants tick off any of the listed species that they see and classify correctly. For uncommon or difficult-to-classify species, participants must raise their hands to get verification from the project team before their classifications are counted. Uncommon species or uncommon occurrences (like multiple species seen together in a photo sequence) also earn participants a higher score. In the end, we tally up the scores and declare a winner. So far, we’ve had 4 such contests and our contestants want to keep classifying even after the time is up. So, it’s pretty addictive!

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Snap-a-thon checklist

 

Pictures from previous Snap-a-thons:

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Snap-a-thon at UW-Madison

 

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Snap-a-thon at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin

 

If you’d like to host your own Snap-a-thon, drop us an email at DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov and we’ll provide you with resources!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elk Calf Searching

After two days of meticulous searching in the rain, a crew of about ten people (including two Snapshot team members) dejectedly walked out of the forest. We were searching for elk (Cervus canadensis) calves in the Clam Lake and Flambeau River State Forest regions of Wisconsin, and had not had any luck thus far. Just as we were leaving, a biologist on the crew softly yelled “elk!”. Nestled into the side of a tree was a small brown creature perfectly camouflaged with the surrounding dead leaves. We estimated that we had walked by the little calf three times without noticing her!

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The female elk calf that Snapshot Wisconsin team members helped to find. She was a little soggy from the rain.

The elk biologists put a blindfold over the elk calf to keep her calm. With hushed voices, they took measurements, applied ear tags, fitted her with a VHF (very high frequency) collar for location tracking and then moved away. Collars provide information on mortality, movement and herd interactions throughout the calves’ lifetimes. Collectively, this data can be used to help inform management decisions for Wisconsin’s elk herds.

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Elk calves are fitted with VHF collars and ear tags for identification and location tracking. Photograph credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

For more information about Wisconsin’s elk herds, check out this link.

 

 

 

 

 

June #SuperSnap

This month’s @SuperSnap of a crisp looking coyote (Canis latrans) was nominated by @WInature. Coyotes are also known as the brushwolf, prairie wolf, kyute, little wolf and mush-quo-de-ma-in-gon (Chippewa). For more fun facts about coyotes, visit this link.

Check out all the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” in Talk. Hashtag your favorite photos for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post.

 

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A Booming Success: Prairie Chickens and Trail Cameras

What looks like a chicken, lives in the prairie and has one of the most phenomenal displays of courtship in the animal kingdom? You guessed it, the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)! Earlier this spring, Snapshot Wisconsin teamed up with WDNR biologists in the Buena Vista Grasslands area to implement a prairie chicken trail camera monitoring project in Wisconsin.

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Greater prairie chicken males display on “lekking” grounds, which typically consist of a mound just a little higher up than the surrounding area. The males strut their stuff, including tufts of feathers that look like ears and orange air sacs the males use to “boom”.

In the 1950’s, the greater prairie chicken was close to extinction in the state of Wisconsin. The WDNR, in partnership with conservation groups, established a prairie chicken management program. Every year in early spring, WDNR biologists begin thoroughly surveying known greater prairie chicken lekking grounds to track population size and locations of leks.  The protection and monitoring of the species has helped the comeback of the prairie chicken in Wisconsin. Currently, a few thousand chickens can be found in the central part of the state.

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Photo of a male greater prairie chicken taken from a Snapshot Wisconsin camera.

This year, Snapshot Wisconsin deployed 15 cameras to help supplement monitoring efforts. Trail cameras can efficiently and continuously survey known lekking grounds to count peak numbers of males at each lek.

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Snapshot Wisconsin team members and WDNR biologists stand behind the traditional surveying blind and a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

The team had a blast deploying trail cameras at lekking grounds. For those of you who own trail cameras, you may be familiar with the walk test. In the chicken camera test, we ended up crawling to test if a chicken would be detected on camera. This resulted in a lot grass in our clothes and an equal amount of laughter.

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For more information on Wisconsin’s prairie chickens check out this link.

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Deer behavior research

Have you ever wondered about the scientific applications of your deer behavior classifications? Check out this recent article from NASA featuring Snapshot Wisconsin researcher John Clare! The work compares the “vigilant” and “foraging” deer behavior classifications from Zooniverse across space. In some areas, deer tended to be vigilant more often than they foraged, in other areas it was the other way around, and in still other areas deer tended to exhibit each behavior equally. The research can’t yet determine the “why” behind these patterns (likely a combination of vegetation, predator and weather patterns), but it’s great to see the Zooniverse behavior classifications used this way! Traditionally, behavior studies like this would require researchers to go out in the field and directly observe animals. You can imagine that to undertake a statewide study would require lots of eyes and travel hours! Thanks to Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera hosts and the people powered Zooniverse platform, we have a way to collect these data across larger swaths of space and time than was possible before.

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May #Super Snap

Spring has finally arrived! In celebration of the warmer weather and spring flowers here in Wisconsin, our May #Supersnap goes to this ballerina deer jumping for joy. Thanks for the nomination @momsabina!

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Check out all the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” in Talk. Hashtag your favorite photos for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post.

Celebrate Citizen Science Day!

citizen-science-day-logo-bigCitizen science invites you to contribute to scientific research no matter where or who you are! For the Snapshot Wisconsin project, citizen scientists deploy and monitor trail cameras and classify photos on Zooniverse. We’d like to take the opportunity to acknowledge our hardworking citizen scientist volunteers and promote Citizen Science Day 2018.

On April 14th, the Citizen Science Association kicked off a month-long extravaganza to promote citizen science. Citizen science is an incredible opportunity for the public to contribute to a wide array of science projects, from air and water monitoring, galaxy identifying and wildlife science. To see a calendar of the hundreds of events happening around the world for Citizen Science Day, check out this link.

The Wisconsin Citizen Based Monitoring Network is another great resource to find citizen science projects in Wisconsin. Check out the events list for ways to become involved.

 

March #Super Snap

Since hearing the familiar claketty-clack and bugle calling this spring, it only felt fitting to choose this photo series of a colt and adult Sandhill for the March #supersnap! For more information about Sandhill Cranes, check out this link. Thanks for the nomination @sarahcameron and @sbreich!

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In the Field with the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study

Imagine sitting in a truck parked alongside a snowy forest edge, playing a round of cribbage while dressed in full winter gear – a cooler of deer sedative wrapped around one arm, a deer blind wrapped around the other – anxiously awaiting a radio call to hop into action. This is how research technicians, Taylor and myself, spent our evening on February 8th as we tagged along to assist crew members trap and collar deer for the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study.

The combination of recent snowfall and prolonged bouts of cold temperatures provided an excellent opportunity to get out in the field and collar deer. These conditions are ideal because they make finding food more difficult; deer have to spend more time foraging and therefore are more likely to visit baited drop nets, one of the methods the study uses for trapping animals.

Crew members preparing to set up the drop net site. Photograph by Caitlin Henning

On our night out with the crew, one study technician sat in a blind proximal to the net and waited for a deer to visit. Meanwhile, we waited patiently roughly a quarter mile away to minimize noise at the site. Once a doe fawn was spotted feeding on the bait, the technician triggered the net to drop and radioed our crew before sprinting to restrain the doe and cover her eyes, reducing potential stress.

Research technicians sedating the doe fawn. Photograph by Caitlin Henning

In a burst of chaos, we quickly grabbed the equipment, hopped in the UTV, and sped to the net site. Upon arrival, a sedative was quickly applied. Once the doe was immobilized, we fit a GPS collar and applied ear tags, collected a genetic sample and a sample to test for CWD, and performed a series of body measurements. Throughout the process the doe was positioned on her sternum to maintain regular bodily functions and receive oxygen. We monitored her vitals routinely to ensure her safety and well-being. Upon completing these tasks, the sedation was reversed and we watched from a distance to make sure the doe woke up and was able to walk away safely.

Snapshot Wisconsin research technicians Sarah Cameron and Taylor Peltier. Photograph by Caitlin Henning

As of February, this project had collared 91 fawns, 263 deer, 21 bobcats, and 39 coyotes with the help of 174 volunteer landowners. Getting out in the field is an experience we would strongly recommend to anyone. If you’re in Wisconsin, you can explore opportunities to volunteer on WDNR projects near you!

Curious to learn more about the CWD, Deer and Predator study? Check out Caitlin Henning’s featured blog post, or visit the WDNR project webpage. Keep an eye out for these collared critters from Dane, Grant, and Iowa counties on our Snapshot Wisconsin Zooniverse site.

Snapshot Wisconsin opens in 8 new counties

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We’re happy to announce that enrollment recently opened in eight new counties, bringing our county total to 26. Any individual or organization in these counties with access to 10 acres of land is encouraged to apply to host a trail camera. We are also continuing to accept applications from educators and tribal members/affiliates across the state. Check out our project web page and monthly newsletter for complete updates!