Vivek’s citizen science and camera trapping experiences

In this post, I’ll be talking a little bit about my experiences with citizen science and camera trapping projects prior to joining Snapshot Wisconsin.

Before I decided to become a wildlife conservation professional, I was involved with citizen science projects as a volunteer. I found pleasure in natural history, making observations and collecting data for scientists. This was my contribution to saving the world, I thought! As a volunteer, I have done large mammal surveys in India, from counting tiger prey species to collecting carnivore scat. I learned a lot from participating in these projects. More than anything else, I think they provided a welcome distraction from my day job as a software programmer *chuckle*.

Here’s a misty morning scene from Nagarhole National Park, while I waited for the survey start time of 6 am.

I was also involved with conservation groups in the Western Ghats landscape of India. One project I am proud of being associated with is the Bisle Frog Watch. Every year citizen scientists congregate at Bisle (a tiny village in the Western Ghats) to learn about amphibian ecology and identify them in the wild under the guidance of researchers. What is heartening is that over a period of 6 years, we have made a checklist of 36 species of amphibians!

A night time frog watching field visit in progress.

A regular feature of our frog watch: a winged gliding frog( Rhacophorus lateralis) perched on a rock.

Apart from mammals and amphibians, I also love bird watching and regularly submit my bird lists to eBird.

A whimbrel from the Western coast of India.

Some of these experiences with citizen science gave me the confidence that I too can do scientific research. And, that’s also how I decided to pursue a Master’s degree.

Talking about my camera trapping experiences, I worked on a trail camera survey in Ecuador for my Master’s capstone project. I worked with an Ecuador based non-profit called Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation. We set up a total of 16 camera traps on several private properties and nature reserves in the Manabi province of coastal Ecuador.

Whereas the most common species in Snapshot Wisconsin is the white-tailed deer, in my project in Ecuador it was the agouti. (Although white-tailed deer have been recorded in the study site in Ecuador, they are uncommon in those parts of the world.) Whereas in Snapshot Wisconsin we see bobcats, in Ecuador we frequently recorded wild cats like ocelot, margay and jaguarundi.

In fact, I am even leaving an identification challenge for some pictures from Ecuador. Feel free to leave your guesses( along with the picture number) in the comments below. I shall post the answers soon-ish!


Picture #1


Picture #2


Picture #3


Picture #4

All in all, it is exciting to be working on the Snapshot Wisconsin project – with the many citizen scientists who host camera traps across Wisconsin and many others from around the world classifying pictures – knowing we have something in common.


Picture credits: Frog watch pictures – Deepika Prasad; Camera trap pictures from Ecuador – Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation.

2 responses to “Vivek’s citizen science and camera trapping experiences”

  1. matt says :

    Awaiting SW season 6, ok, i’ll take a stab at this-
    1 looks as if it could be a jaguarundi that you’d hinted at. i know i’ve heard the name but don’t know if i’ve ever seen one live before.
    2 & 3 both look like they could be ocelots; i’ve seen those in zoos.
    4 i wanted to say [Coatimundi]( but no and it’s certainly not a [sloth]( Thought it looked like it might be a canid of some sort and found something from Central America called a [Short-eared dog]( that kind of comes close but really haven’t the faintest idea.
    Well, that’s my guesses. Right or wrong, a bit of fun.
    Don’t know if the link thingey works the same way here as in the subject comments.
    matt (aka ‘enog’)


  2. vivekdotm says :

    Hi Matt! Sorry I’m late with my reply. We should have season 6 up and running *soon*.

    Thanks for being a sport and taking the ID quiz. You did well, with 2/4 answers correct. #1 and #3 are right i.e. jaguarundi and ocelot. #2 is a margay, which basically looks like a smaller version of the ocelot. #4 was a tough one. It’s a tayra, of the weasel family. And, they do look like canids :).


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