August #SuperSnap

The August #SuperSnap goes to the Sandhill Cranes captured by a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera located in Dodge County. Cranes have unique behavior displays that are often referred to as “dancing.” They can be seen dancing when they are seeking a mate, to strengthen the bond between lifelong mated pairs, or to express aggression or territoriality. During these displays, cranes will let out a series of distinctive calls that can be heard up to 2 miles away!

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @Swamp-eye for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

 

Sources:

https://www.eekwi.org/animals/birds/sandhill-crane

https://madisonaudubon.org/crane-dancing

https://savingcranes.org/learn/frequently-asked-questions-about-cranes/

July #SuperSnap

The July #SuperSnap goes to this fantastic trail camera image of a fisher from Dunn County! This type of fisher doesn’t require a pole and net to catch their food. Fishers instead use their retractable claws, sharp teeth, and agile body when on the hunt for a meal. They also rarely eat fish as their name might imply. They most commonly prey on other terrestrial mammals, including snowshoe hares, squirrels, and even porcupines. This species is omnivorous, so they will also consume nuts, fruits, and mushrooms when available.

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @smeurett for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

 

Sources:

http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/fisher_k6.html 

https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/furbearers.html

https://animalia.bio/fisher

https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/mammals/fishers/about

June #SuperSnap

Oh baby! The June #SuperSnap goes to this red fox and their kit captured on a Snapshot trail camera in Price County. Foxes usually breed in mid-January and will have their litter of 5 to 6 pups by mid-March. Staying within their typical hunting range of about 150-400 acres, kits will begin hunting with their parents at 3 months old. By the time they are 7-8 months old, they are ready to hunt on their own! The young will begin to disperse by late fall to search for their own home-range and will usually breed during their first winter.

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @MiddleChild for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Sources:

https://www.eekwi.org/animals/mammals/red-fox

https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Fact-Sheets/Red-Fox

Diving Into My Trip to Bonaire

Most readers of this blog know that Snapshot Wisconsin brings together people from around the globe who share an interest in classifying Wisconsin’s extraordinary wildlife. In addition to building connections with volunteers, Snapshot Wisconsin works to form connections with organizations, such as the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF). This non-profit organization’s Diversity in Conservation Internship Program aims to introduce a diverse group of undergraduates to the many career paths in conservation. This summer, Snapshot is hosting one of the seven NRF interns, Mira Johnson.

Hello, my name is Mira, and I have been working with the Snapshot team over the last couple of months. During my time here, I have assisted in daily tasks like preparing equipment for volunteers and moderating Zooniverse. What’s more, I have had the remarkable opportunity to work on individual projects, like designing graphics for volunteer outreach materials, carrying out a small research study, and publishing this blog post! Last spring, I designed and conducted a small research project with two other students on an island called Bonaire. From this experience, I became more interested in learning how observational studies can be designed to reduce confounding variables, as that was a concern apparent in our study. This summer’s internship, spent immersed in the many projects underway at the DNR and being mentored by a research and data scientist, promises to significantly grow and deepen my understanding of reliable research practices.

Please allow me to share little about myself and my experience in Bonaire that I mentioned previously. I am a junior at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, majoring in biology with a focus on marine systems. My interest in marine life began over many visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and tidepools of California with my grandfather. My growing fascination with marine life eventually led me to apply for the Lawrence University Marine Program in 2021. I was accepted, and in the Spring of 2022, fifteen students and I traveled to the island of Bonaire in the Southern Caribbean.

Map

Map of the Caribbean showing Bonaire as a pinpoint. Screenshot taken from Google Maps.

Group

2022 Lawrence University Marine Program cohort at Bari Reef (I am in the front row, second from the left). Photo by Julie Morgan published in The Bonaire Reporter newspaper.

Over the two weeks in Bonaire, we surveyed reefs for biodiversity and conducted our small group research projects. Although I had been eagerly anticipating this trip for over a year, when the day finally arrived for our first dive, I was pretty nervous! I grew up in the Midwest, and my previous dive experience was limited to diving a couple of times in the murky lakes of Minnesota when I received my SCUBA certification. This resulted in a first dive where my eyes were mostly glued to my depth gauge and air supply. It wasn’t long however before the tension began to wash away as I glided across the reef identifying the vibrant life below.

Once everyone became comfortable with diving, we surveyed for coral biodiversity using chain transects. This method involved long periods of hovering above the reef as we waited while the videographer swam along each chain. It was during moments like these that we could attentively inspect and appreciate the marine life around us. As we hung neutrally buoyant, I was able to spot some of the reef’s shyer species, like the Queen Angelfish, the Chain Moray, and the Spotted Drum.

Angelfish

Photograph of a Queen Angelfish on Bari Reef.

When we were not performing chain transects, we were out gathering data for our small group research projects. My group chose to conduct a study on locations on the reef where cleaning behavior (a mutualistic interaction where cleaner fish remove ectoparasites from client fish) between fish occur. Our experiment looked at sites where cleaning interactions took place, which led to an interesting finding that most client fish were cleaned above corals (as opposed to over sponges, anemones, or neither). It was when arriving at the analysis and interpretation stage of our study that we realized that various interpretations could be made, including some valid opposing arguments. With this experience I began to realize the importance of a well-designed study, and this pushed me to want to learn more about reliable research practices.

Coral

A blue tang above Orbicella annularis; this is the most common species of coral to be found at cleaning stations in our study.

As I work on my small research project using the Snapshot Wisconsin database, I am learning ways in which I can develop a well-designed study. Anticipating problems and biases that might arise in the analysis stage is extremely valuable in correctly interpreting the results. In the planning stage, I have observed that involving a diverse group of people early on is helpful, as a data scientist might foresee analytical problems that a research scientist may not, and vice versa. It is exciting to see the values of the NRF Diversity in Conservation Internship Program in action during my time here with Snapshot Wisconsin, and I have enjoyed contributing to the team. All this said, I look forward to continuing to engage with the Snapshot Wisconsin project and interacting with you all on Zooniverse!

May #SuperSnap

The May #SuperSnap goes to this action shot of a gray squirrel from Dane County! Squirrels make up 9% of the animal photos captured by Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras, putting them just behind deer as the second largest collection of animal photos in our database. These squirrel detections can be viewed in combination with our chipmunk observations on the Snapshot Wisconsin Data Dashboard. This online tool visualizes the trail camera data collected by Snapshot volunteers found all around the state. 

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @charleysangel for this #SuperSnap nomination

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

A Snapshot From Above

Getting the chance to venture out of the office on a sunny Wisconsin spring day?! Count me in!

In late March 2022, I was lucky enough to tag along with fellow DNR colleagues into the field as they collected aerial images of trout streams for a scientific study. With an interest in general aviation, I am usually the first to jump into the right-seat of a small plane. However, this time, I wouldn’t even make it off the ground!

So, how do you capture streams from above? By unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)!

More commonly known as drones, these aerial vehicles are frequently used by researchers throughout the world to capture aerial imagery and data. You can find drones being used in a variety of scientific disciplines ranging from the energy industry to wildlife research to climate physics.

As we traveled almost 1.5 hours west of Madison, we found ourselves in the driftless region of Wisconsin. The target streams had been pre-selected by the DNR’s Office of Applied Science (OAS) researchers. This particular scientific study will provide quantitative data on the effects beaver have on cold-water stream habitats and trout populations. You can learn more about the study here.

Arriving at the first stream, we took a few minutes to get out of the truck and stretch. Ryan Bemowski (OAS Unmanned Aerial Systems Coordinator) set up the drone and programmed the device to follow a preferred trajectory. Nick Hoffman (DNR fisheries technician) verified the set trajectory, and once the drone was programmed, Ryan started it up. He had programmed the drone to fly at about 300 feet off the ground and up it went!

A man in a beige coat attaches propellers to a drone device.

Bemowski setting up the drone for the first flight of the day.

When the programmed altitude was reached, the drone began moving in the direction of the stream we aimed to capture. My role was to follow the drone on foot and help make sure that we could keep an eye on the device at all times- being weary of trees, power lines, manned aircraft, etc. To get the full image, the drone followed the targeted section of the stream twice.

A bird's eye view of trees that look grey in the background with a stream across the landscape from east to west.

Aerial image of a trout steam taken from the drone.

While following the drone, I got a first-hand glimpse of the cold, clean waters of the driftless area- so clear, you could see large trout swimming. The goal of the study is to monitor recolonization of beaver and measure their impacts on water temperature, stream structure, and trout movement and population dynamics. The occasional beaver dam would pop up during our survey, showing us where beaver are returning to the stream.

A beaver dam consisting of a pile of large sticks that are blocking water from moving past it.

A beaver dam located on one of the target streams.

These collected images, among other habitat data, will be used to better understand the effects of beaver activity and beaver control on salmonids in streams. The image data not only identifies the location of beaver activity, but allows us to directly measure the size of beaver structures and area of beaver impoundments. Infrared temperature sensors mounted on the UAV even let us directly measure surface water temperatures along the length of the stream, identifying cold water springs and possible temperature changes above and below beaver dams.

It was interesting to see the perspective from above, which as you all know, looks a little different than the typical snapshot our project cameras capture! Imagery data, whether captured by UAV or Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras, plays a critical role in scientific research.

With my interest in general aviation and planes, it was really exciting and a great experience to add this to my belt. I am grateful for this opportunity and especially grateful to my colleagues, Ryan Bemowski and Nick Hoffman for letting me tag along.

A woman with long, red hair stands near the tailgate of a pickup truck. She is holding the controller for the drone machine.

The author with the drone and drone controls.

Expanding Citizen Science Horizons

The following piece was written by OAS Communications Specialist Rachel Fancsali for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link.

If you are interested in branching out as a volunteer scientist, there are plenty of other opportunities to explore. The Snapshot Wisconsin team wanted to highlight some of the other exciting programs that our volunteers and their loved ones may be interested in. After all, volunteer scientists play an important role in more than just wildlife research.

The state of Wisconsin has a long history of volunteer science programs. The DNR has an extensive list of its own volunteer science programs and partner projects, including programs like the Wisconsin Bumble Bee Brigade and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Monitoring Program.

But what about programs outside of Wisconsin? There are plenty of national programs available on a wide variety of topics. If you are looking for something new to dip your toes in, check out these other programs:

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail And Snow Network (CocoRaHS)

  • A community-based volunteer network of weather observers working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities.
  • CocoRaHS data is used by meteorologists, hydrologists, teachers, engineers and organizations such as the National Weather Service and the USDA.
  • Visit the Wisconsin chapter of CocoRaHS.

FrogWatch USA

  • Volunteers report the calls of local frogs and toads heard during evenings from February to August, depending on the area and peak breeding season for local species. The data are then loaded into a public database, similar to Snapshot Wisconsin’s Data Dashboard.
  • Partnered with the Citizen Science Academy (hosted by the Chicago Botanic Garden) and the National Geographic Society, FrogWatch USA data is used to help develop practical strategies for conserving frog and toad species.
  • Visit FrogWatch USA to learn more.

NASA NeMO-Net

  • Map Earth’s oceans in this videogame that trains an artificial intelligence for a NASA supercomputer using FluidCam’s 3D images of the seafloor, the first instrument that can see through waves.
  • Players identify coral reefs, other shallow marine environments and marine animals using 2D satellite and drone images and 3D reconstructions of underwater environments. Player classifications are used to teach the convolutional neural network (CNN) called NeMO-Net and help scientists better understand and protect coral reefs globally.
  • To dive in, visit NASA NeMo-Net.

The Secchi Dip-In

  • Operated by the North American Lake Management Society, this program collects water clarity measurements from rivers, lakes and estuaries to track water quality changes across the continent. Over the past 20 years, the database has accumulated more than 41,000 records on over 7,000 individual waterbodies.
  • Volunteers are taught how to take water clarity measurements primarily using a Secchi disk unless the water body is a river or stream that would require a turbidity tube or black disk. Data is primarily collected in July, but the program does accept data year-round!
  • Visit the Secchi Dip-In project site, then spend a day on the lake.

We certainly appreciate our volunteers at Snapshot Wisconsin, and we know these programs also appreciate their volunteers. Whether you want to expand your citizen science portfolio into finding collection water samples, listening to frog songs or teaching an AI, there are plenty of options. Have fun exploring!

 

April #SuperSnap

The April #SuperSnap goes to this great blue heron captured on a Snapshot trail camera in Door County. Standing at four feet tall, blue herons use shallow areas like the one pictured as their main hunting grounds. They typically remain stationary while scanning the water below for fish, frogs, or snakes to catch with their long beaks. Great blue herons will also prey on species found in nearby fields or marshes, like rodents, insects, and even other birds. 

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @AUK for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

 

Sources: 

https://www.eekwi.org/animals/birds/great-blue-heron 

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/great-blue-heron

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron/lifehistory

 

March #SuperSnap

Wood-n’t you know it, our March #Supersnap goes to this nighttime shot of a beaver in Vernon County! These ecosystem engineers play a large role in shaping the waterways and wetlands throughout Wisconsin. The dams that beavers build can reach up to six and a half feet tall and stretch fifteen feet wide. A single beaver alone cuts down around 200 trees each year to use in dam construction. The bark, twigs, and leaves from each tree also serve as their main food source.

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @bobk47 for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

 

Sources:

https://www.eekwi.org/animals/mammals/beaver

https://ed.fnal.gov/entry_exhibits/beaver/beaver.html#:~:text=Beavers%20are%20born%20knowing%20how,the%20growth%20of%20unwanted%20trees 

https://www.hww.ca/assets/pdfs/factsheets/beaver-en.pdf

From Langlade County, Wisconsin to Zurich, Switzerland

The following piece was written by OAS Communications Specialist Rachel Fancsali for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link.

You now know that Snapshot Wisconsin has contributed to important research not only statewide, but also nationwide with Snapshot USA. But did you know that over the past year and half, Snapshot Wisconsin has been contributing to an international collaborative art exhibit?

One Snapshot volunteer took on the challenge of running a special camera trap to contribute to the University of Zurich Graduate Campus’s Triggered by Motion project. The project will be creating an immersive, walk-through pavilion where visitors will be able to experience the biodiversity of wildlife from 14 countries around the world, and video footage of north woods Wisconsin wildlife will be on display for the world to see!

Connecting Science, Art, and the Public

The University of Zurich (UZH) Graduate Campus focuses on engaging with the public through events and exhibitions, utilizing its cross-faculty platform to create collaborative exhibitions that connect science, art and the public. The project Triggered by Motion is one of several collaboration projects that will be featured in the overarching Planet Digital exhibition, which explores the digital transformation of our world.

In the field of wildlife research, trail cameras are an excellent example of digital transformation in research. As many Snapshot volunteers already know, trail cameras are a non-invasive method, allowing a glimpse of wildlife behind the scenes. The goal of the Triggered by Motion project is to give a unique perspective on how researchers use camera traps to learn about the world, bringing the audience closer to this research method.

Each trail camera video for the project will condense a year’s worth of footage into a 20-minute time-lapse. Then the videos will be synchronized, so that daylight will slowly move from one screen to the other, circling around the pavilion to imitate the rotation of the earth.

In June 2020, UZH was referred to Snapshot Wisconsin. At the time, there was another trail camera in southern California, but UZH was looking to diversify its North American captures. The teams from UZH and Snapshot Wisconsin were able to connect and discuss the possibility of Snapshot Wisconsin participating in the international project.

Snapshot Wisconsin checked all the boxes for Triggered by Motion: it’s a well-established project, located in the northern half of the U.S. and operates year-round. Also, the cameras that Snapshot uses normally take still photos that fulfill the project’s data needs, but they are capable of capturing video footage. What really set Snapshot Wisconsin apart from other Triggered by Motion participants is our program’s applied research focus, with Snapshot data contributing to wildlife decision support.

With that, Snapshot Wisconsin became a part of the Triggered by Motion project. Now it was up to the Snapshot team to find a volunteer and set the modified camera.

A red fox walking in the snow

Finding a Volunteer and a Camera Site

When it came time to choose a Snapshot volunteer to work with UZH, volunteer coordinator Claire Viellieux knew just the right person. “I met Blayne Zeise at the last in-person volunteer recognition event in 2019, and he has a good record of checking cameras and uploading in a timely manner,” Viellieux said.

After talking with Viellieux, Blayne Zeise was happy to help. “I had actually asked her at the volunteer event about adding another camera anyways,” Zeise said.

Zeise had already been running his own personal trail cameras on public lands for a couple of years before joining the Snapshot Wisconsin program in 2018. “I started out with a couple of $30 cameras from Walmart and started using them on public lands, then worked my way up from there,” Zeise said. He heard about Snapshot Wisconsin through some of Snapshot’s yearly advertising and decided to give it a try. “I thought it would be nice to have a better-quality camera with a lockbox on it, especially on public land,” Zeise said.

Zeise is very familiar with several public lands in the Marathon and southern Langlade County areas. His own cameras have been monitoring wildlife by river crossings on the Red River in Langlade County and Plover River in Marathon County. Zeise monitors his Snapshot Wisconsin camera in a fishery area just south of Antigo in Langlade County.

This familiarity with the landscape was a huge factor in Zeise’s decision on where to put the camera. “It’s mostly birds and deer at the river crossings,” says Zeise, “but there’s a larger diversity of animals at the other site [the fishery area].”

However, while biodiversity of the location was a large factor, it wasn’t the only one. Zeise knew that he may have to check batteries more often with capturing video footage, making it imperative that the location is easily accessible in all seasons. “The location I picked is a short hike, and there is still a lot of animals that pass through there,” Zeise said.

A Rough Start

Unfortunately, right off the bat, there were some roadblocks to deployment.

When setting up a Snapshot camera for filming at the office, Viellieux noticed the camera couldn’t meet the criteria set by UZH. To avoid motion blur and distortion once on the big screen exhibit, the video footage needed to be captured in 60 full frames per second with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. The Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, suitable for Snapshot Wisconsin’s research objectives that uses a large photo database, were not designed to meet that high of criteria for filming. Zeise tried one of his own personal cameras as well, but also had no luck.

UZH staff still wanted Zeise and Snapshot Wisconsin to be a part of the project, so they purchased and mailed a camera for Zeise to set up. After a small setback getting the UZH camera to film at appropriate times, Zeise’s next challenge was monitoring the camera’s battery pack with the extra demand filming had on battery life. “It just sucks up so much energy doing 30 second video every half hour during the day, and 15 second video at night,” said Zeise.

Most other Triggered by Motion trap sites were using solar packs to power the cameras. Zeise’s concern with this solution was how easy it would be for someone to walk off with the solar pack, especially being located on public lands. For most of the year, it was not difficult at the fishery area to change the rechargeable batteries that most Snapshot Wisconsin cameras use. With the rechargeable batteries, Zeise had to change them every three days.

Zeise’s main battery challenge would be in the north woods’ snowy and bitter winters; changing the rechargeable batteries every three days, or more frequently because of the cold, was not going to be efficient.  He made the switch to lithium batteries, which meant changing batteries every two weeks. “Better than trudging through the snow!” Zeise joked.

Once the weather warmed back up, Zeise switched back to the rechargeable batteries. The system worked well for the year that Zeise collected data.

A buck looking at the camera

Capturing the Best of Wisconsin Wildlife

Zeise’s decision to record at the fishery area was spot on. A large variety of species were seen in the video clips including bear, bobcat, foxes, deer, coyotes and more. Zeise also saw a few neat interactions between species, such as the apparent squabble between a ruffed grouse and a pileated woodpecker (see screen capture below). UZH would also occasionally ask Zeise to confirm what animal was captured. “One time they asked me, ‘what are those really blue colored birds?’, said Zeise. “They were blue jays! I guess they don’t have them over there [in Switzerland].”

What Zeise found most interesting about using video is being able to see how animals used the area. “I was really surprised by how much the deer relied on that area for browsing,” Zeise said. “I even asked Emily [at Snapshot] if there was a way to ID the plants that the deer were using. She recommended a plant ID app, and I was able to ID species such as black ash, bitternut hickory, and black walnut.”

Operating a different kind of camera also brought new findings. “I was kind of surprised with the video that the coyotes were not spooked by it. With some of the Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, they hear the click and just about jump out of their skin,” Zeise observed.

The UZH camera, a Bushnell Dual Core No-Glow, is designed to remain inconspicuous. “They call it a no-glow, but it’s really like a hard black plastic filter to help hide the infrared. The coyotes and foxes probably see it, but the deer may not,” said Zeise.

Grouse-Pileated-Woodpecker

What Now?

With the completion of data collection, UZH was able to construct the exhibit. The project ended with 22 camera traps in 14 countries around the world, enlisting the help of 29 researchers and seven citizen-scientists to monitor the traps. The Triggered by Motion project is at the very center of the Planet Digital exhibition, and the physical exhibition premiered Feb. 11, 2022 at Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. The exhibition will stay at the museum until June, when it will be packed up and shown across the world. The dates and locations of the traveling exhibit are still to be determined.

However, a digital publication of the entire Planet Digital exhibition is available, and the Triggered by Motion project page can be viewed here.

Hopefully, the exhibit will make its way to the U.S. at some point, and we can walk through Snapshot Wisconsin and Zeise’s contribution to an international project! “If it travels to the U.S., I would definitely like to go see it in person,” said Zeise. “I think that was one of the coolest parts, just to be a part of a big project, with three locations in the U.S and over 20 worldwide.”

“I get to keep the camera too,” Zeise said, “It’s a pretty sweet deal.” Zeise mentioned he already has plans for the camera, including deploying it at one of the river crossings he monitors. There’s a spot where a lot of blue heron hang out, and he wants to capture that action.

The Snapshot team is honored to have played a part in connecting Zeise with this international project, and we are lucky to have great volunteers, willing to go beyond just hosting a Snapshot camera.

A big thank you goes to Blayne Zeise for all his help and really taking the reins on monitoring an extra special camera!

View the entire Planet Digital exhibition here.