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