A Thank-you and Farewell from Team Member Michael Kamp
Most of the writing about Snapshot Wisconsin focuses on what the project does for the Wisconsin DNR and the wildlife of Wisconsin or the incredible work of the project’s dedicated volunteers. This makes sense as all are very important aspects of Snapshot Wisconsin. However, for this blog post, I’m going to write about what Snapshot gave to me as a team member and the experience of working for the Snapshot team.
My name is Michael Kamp, and I’ve been with Snapshot Wisconsin a little over two years. Throughout my time, I’ve worked on many different aspects of the project. I’ve done fieldwork, purchasing, equipment shipping, photo classifications and multiple communication pieces for the project. However, I’ll be leaving my position with Snapshot at the end of January to focus on finishing up grad school at UW-Madison this semester. Then I’ll be heading to Ecuador for the summer to work for the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation. I want to say thank you to my teammates for making Snapshot a great experience for me.
But first, let’s rewind to the fall of 2019. That September, I returned to my hometown of Madison after a stint working for The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island. I was applying to new positions in the natural resources and conservation realm. I had never heard of Snapshot Wisconsin but applied for a position with the project. Fortunately, I was given an opportunity to interview and then was offered the position. I immediately accepted the job, which also included some administrative responsibilities for our whole office, the Office of Applied Science (OAS).
Certainly, I was excited for my position with Snapshot and OAS, but I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how lucky I was and how transformative the next couple years would be. I grew a lot professionally and personally over my time with Snapshot Wisconsin.
First off, I joined a fantastic team with Snapshot Wisconsin. Throughout all my working experiences, I’ve been continually reminded of the importance of having a great team. Being part of a strong team, I’m motivated to work for my team members and challenge myself. A truly cohesive team makes the difference between a good and great job in my opinion. The Snapshot team made me feel welcome starting on day one with a welcome meeting, and it only improved from there.
While COVID swept through the world shortly afterwards in March 2020, I already had a solid foundation with my teammates. Having this team was super helpful over the course of the pandemic which as we all know is an ongoing challenge. Even if only on a small square on Zoom, I enjoyed seeing my teammates faces.
So, what are some skills I learned from Snapshot? Well, I can now look at very blurry trail camera images and generally identify the animal captured with confidence. I don’t know how transferable this skill will be to other positions if I don’t work with trail camera photos. Nonetheless, I can chalk this up on my resume as “attention to detail.”
I also gained experience in the behind-the-scenes work needed to make a project like Snapshot successful. Communication and organization are essential when gathering the trail cameras and associated equipment. Sending new volunteers’ equipment and replacing any malfunctioning equipment is a big lift, especially with over 1,700 volunteers. We have to send equipment to all corners of the state.
Furthermore, I learned that trail camera photos are a great way to spark an interest in nature. When people asked what my job was, if possible, I simply showed them trail camera photos. People were amazed at all the wildlife that roam Wisconsin, and Snapshot gave them a perfect viewing window. The 50 Million Photo Celebration is an ideal product to showcase beautiful trail camera photos from bear cubs to displaying turkeys.
Coming into this position with birding experience, I became the default bird guy. If there were any bird identification questions regarding trail camera photos, they came to my desk so to speak. Don’t get me wrong – I was quite happy with the arrangement. I was glad to put my bird expertise to use and share it with my colleagues. Snapshot captures mostly ground dwelling birds, but we captured some great warbler photos and even snapped a yellow-billed cuckoo in flight.
What will I take away from this job? A few things come to mind. Snapshot Wisconsin reinforced the idea that teamwork is essential. Wherever I end up in the future, I want to be part of a great team. I also learned the importance of taking advantage of opportunities in your position. For example, I jumped at every chance to complete fieldwork for Snapshot in the reintroduced elk grids. I gained valuable experience using GPS units and determining suitable spots for trail cameras. Many interesting webinars came into my inbox as well, and I attended when able. I continued learning through my whole tenure with Snapshot Wisconsin.
Another takeaway was the value of setting up trail cameras. After joining the team, I set up a trail camera on my family’s land in Vilas County. What a great decision that was! We have stunning photos of red fox, bobcats, and barred owls to name a few. Trail cameras provide a window into the outdoors that can deepen your connection to the land.
At the end of the day, I simply want to say thank you to all my great coworkers. I’m very grateful that my path wound its way to you all and for the experiences we shared together. Honestly, it’s difficult to leave Snapshot, but the time has come for me to move on. Whenever I think back on Snapshot, it will be with a smile. (Even when thinking of the times I had to prepare what felt like endless FedEx shipments). I look forward to seeing how Snapshot continues to grow.
And for my teammates, if you have any bird identification questions in the future, let me know. You’ve got my number.