Archive by Author | Christine Anhalt-Depies

Thank you for Season 10!

thank youThanks all for another terrific season on Snapshot Wisconsin!  I can’t believe Season 10 of the project has come and gone.  As some of you may have noticed, this season was special, not just because it was our 10th, but it also looked a little different than past seasons.

This season a random selection of our volunteers had the option to work through a series of levels where they were asked not only about the wildlife in the photo, but also about the habitat seen in the photo (e.g. how much snow or green vegetation there was in the photo).  The data contributed by these volunteers produced valuable information that will help us to better understand the relationship between Wisconsin animals and the habitat where they live.  Several recent blog posts have highlighted why this relationship is so important (see here, here, and here if you missed the posts!)

Why did only some volunteers see the levels?

The addition of levels was a big departure from how our Snapshot Wisconsin website has been formatted.  We wanted to carefully examine how this modified experience affects volunteer behavior, learning, and connection to the community. Only a portion of users got to see the experimental site, so we can accurately assess it.  This test is actually part of my research as a PhD student on the Snapshot Wisconsin project.

As team member on Snapshot Wisconsin, my role is to understand the people side of citizen science.  I ask questions like: Why do volunteers get involved in citizen science?  What do volunteers take away from participating?  My goal is to provide feedback that can improve volunteer experience and the science that our project produces.  This season is just one part of that effort.

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White-tailed deer in snow

What are the next steps?

Right now, I’m busy looking at the results of this season. In the near future, Snapshot Wisconsin will return to its normal look.  Whether or not people responded positively to the levels will affect whether the Snapshot Wisconsin Team decides to use the levels during some future seasons.  When I have results to share, we’ll be sure to link to them on the Talk boards and this blog.

How can you help?

One way we’ll assess how volunteers responded to the levels is by looking at how many classifications they completed.  We also want to hear from you directly–regardless of whether or not you had access to the levels.  Snapshot Wisconsin volunteers will receive an email from Zooniverse asking them to complete a survey about their experience this past season.  Your responses are essential in helping us to evaluate Season 10.

What will happen with the photos that have not yet been retired from Season 10?

A handful of photos were not retired before Season 10 ended.  While Season 11 is running, we’ll be busy doing some analysis of the photos to see which need more classifications. We’ll then re-post these photos in Season 12 and beyond.

If you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out to me via private message on Zoonvierse (@anhaltcm) or on the comments here!  On behalf of the whole team, thank you again for Season 10!

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Science of Surveys

As graduate student on the Snapshot Wisconsin project, part of my role is to help the team better understand their volunteers and conduct research that will assist with program improvement.  One way I do this is by surveying trail camera hosts when they enter the program and after they have been participating in Snapshot Wisconsin for one year.

Developing a survey takes more work than you might expect!  Some things, like age or occupation, are relatively easy to measure.  However, abstract concepts like satisfaction or attitudes are much more difficult to capture in a survey.  These abstract concepts must be measured in more indirect ways, and typically social scientists develop a number of survey questions or items to measure a concept.

For example, let’s say I wanted to measure someone’s job satisfaction through a survey.  You could ask, “How happy are you overall with your job?” (Rate 1-5).

Surveys ready to be delivered to Snapshot trail camera hosts

In order to capture more aspects of job satisfaction, it would be better to ask: “How happy are you with each of the following parts of your job?  Autonomy, work load, salary, coworker relations, etc.” (Rate each 1-5).

Bear with me while I get theoretical for a moment…

Imagine you have a whole universe of survey items you could ask someone about job satisfaction.  If you choose just one question to ask them, that question is not likely to be a good representation of their job satisfaction as a whole.  However, if you ask them multiple questions, you get a much better representation of their job satisfaction.

Let me use an analogy.  If I want to know all the different species of mammals found in a particular county and I put out just one trail camera in that county, it isn’t likely to be sufficient.  I put out a whole bunch of cameras across the county, I’d get a much more accurate count.

Often, I get this question from people who take surveys: Why do some of these survey questions seem so similar to one another?  Can’t you ask this with just one question?

The answer is: if we are asking about an abstract concept in a survey, assessing it indirectly though multiple questions is the best way to go if we want valid scientific results.

Through email and the internet it is so easy to deliver surveys and if you are like me, you get a survey in your inbox from some business or organization just about every week.  Hopefully this sheds a little light on what goes on behind the scenes before you get that “new mail” notification.

For those of you who have completed a Snapshot Wisconsin survey, your responses are truly valued.  We are learning a lot; see here for some early results and keep your eyes on the blog for more. If you are interested in learning more about the science behind surveys, let me know in the comments!

 

 

International Symposium on Society and Resource Management

As a graduate student, conferences are an opportunity for me to share my research and connect with others doing similar work.  Recently I had the opportunity to travel to beautiful Utah for the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management.  This conference brings together scientists and practitioners to share research on the interaction between society and natural resources.

I learned about many innovative research efforts – a study aiming at making camping  more sustainable by decreasing the impact on the natural environment (Marion et al.) and another that used survey data to understand what sources of scientific information were most trusted by the public (Schuster et al.).

Some of my favorite sessions were workshops I attended on how to be a better collaborator and communicate with journalists. I also had the opportunity to present some of my research on volunteer’s experiences participating in Snapshot Wisconsin (stay tuned to find out more!)

Of course the views weren’t shabby either. Now back to data analysis and writing!

 

 

Is this deer sick?

Our Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras capture images from all over the state and throughout the year.  Sometimes folks spot a critter that looks a bit different from the others and ask, “Is this deer sick?”  In most cases, the answer is “not likely.”  In this post we are sharing some of our most frequently asked questions about deer appearance and wildlife diseases.

M2E28L65-65R387B337This deer looks skinny!  Is it sick?  Could it have CWD? 

Winter in Wisconsin can be quite rough for a deer!  In summer food sources are abundant, but come wintertime deer have to rely on less nutritious forage like twigs, lichens, or leftovers in harvested crop fields. Because resources vary significantly with the season, a deer’s weight will also vary.  After particularly long winters, deer may look very skinny the following spring and even in to early summer.  But not to worry; they will put the weight back on in no time.

CWD (chronic wasting disease) is a fatal nervous system disease that affects deer, elk, and moose.  CWD has been found in wild deer in 23 Wisconsin counties, with highest prevalence in the southern part of the state. Clinical signs of CWD include diminished muscle tone and emaciation, but outward symptoms often do not appear for months or years after infection. The disease is best confirmed through a lab test for the disease; physical appearance based on trail camera images is not a reliable indicator.  More likely a deer is skinny because of poor food resources in winter and not because of CWD or some other disease.

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What is wrong with this deer’s coat? 

Each spring deer molt or lose their winter coats.  The thick grey hairs that make up the winter coat are replaced with a new reddish-brown summer coat.  This molting process can happen quite quickly and during the transition deer can look a little ratty and rough.  This is a normal process and nature’s way of making sure deer are “dressed” for the temperature.

M2E52L150-149R399B383This deer has an injury.  Can you notify someone or help this deer?

Sometimes deer with physical injuries show up in our photos.  This is common for wild animals. These injuries can be caused by any number of reasons, such as scraping against a fence or perhaps from a predator.  In many cases, the small injuries will heal quickly, leaving a scar or patch bare of hair.  In cases where the injury is major (say from a car collision) and the deer cannot recover, the animal will become an important food source for scavengers.

All of the photos appear on Zooniverse many months after they have been taken, and the animal may no longer be in the area.  Although reporting the observation via Zooniverse will not be helpful, Wisconsinites who personally observe sick or dead animals can make a timely report to their local DNR office or contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

August #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap comes to us from @Snowdigger.  Although we’re still enjoying the late summer here in Wisconsin, we couldn’t resist sharing this snowy winter scene featuring a coyote.  There are also signs of another critter who occupies this wood; look closely to see trees that have been felled by beaver.

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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.

When Programs Intersect

In a previous post we shared an experience on a property restored to prairie with help from a landowner program. Did you know that 55% of Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera hosts participate in landowner programs?  The Wisconsin DNR offers many opportunities for landowners interested in managing their property.  These programs include:

Other programs are available through the University of Wisconsin Extension, including the Wisconsin Coverts Project. This project provides 3-day workshops for landowners who want to learn how to enhance their woodlands for wildlife.

Recently, a Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer in Iowa County shared with us photos captured by her trail camera after she conducted a prescribed burn on her property. Prescribed burns can be used to improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities and reduce wildfire potential. The Landowner Incentive Program provided support to carry out the burn.  Shortly after the burn, turkeys started using the area and showed off for the Snapshot Wisconsin camera. We were excited to see these two programs intersect!

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More resources for landowners can be found on the Wisconsin DNR website. Are you involved in any landowner programs?  Tell us about it in the comments!

June #SuperSnap

#SuperSnap is a new, reoccurring blog feature and a way for us to share some of the best  Snapshot Wisconsin photos! We received some great entries for our first ever #SuperSnap, and it was difficult to pick just one. Without further ado, this month’s selection is a curious buck nominated by e2ntity.

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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.

Cool Projects and Tools

The Snapshot Wisconsin Team recently attended the Citizen Science Association conference in St. Paul, MN where researchers and organizations were on hand to share the latest in citizen science. At the conference we learned about some really cool projects and tools that might interest educators and citizen scientists:

Citizen Science Projects

The National Phenology Network monitors the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals, and landscapes. Their Nature’s Notebook Education Program is designed to provide students with place-based, hands-on learning opportunities.

How does this spring compare to “normal”? Data from the National Phenology Network can tell us.

The Habitat Network provides tools to better understand urban wildlife habitat through mapping.  Habitat Network connects you with other individuals in your region and provides participants with resource on how to cultivate habitat.

CoCoRaHS is the community collaborative rain, hail, and snow network.  Members of the network work together to measure and map participation across the U.S.

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Great Sunflower Project participants observe pollinators like this bumble bee.

Those interested in bees and butterflies can join the Great Sunflower Project and the Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project to help monitor how our flower loving insect friends are faring.

For volunteers in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Citizen Based Monitoring program maintains a list of citizen science projects that are active in Wisconsin.  Check out the calendar to see a list of upcoming citizen science events.

Tools

There are some great tools available to help collect data and learn about wildlife in the field. A few we learned about in St. Paul are the Echo Meter Touch device for recording bat echolocations, Song Meter for capturing wildlife sounds, and Song Sleuth for automatically identify singing birds. Ready to start a project that involves collecting wildlife sounds? You may be interested in this grant program to support bioacoustics research efforts.

Announcing! Data Exploration Toolkit for Educators

Snapshot Wisconsin is a great opportunity for kids to get outdoors and learn about their local wildlife.  To date, nearly 200 educators and their students participate in Snapshot Wisconsin, either by hosting a trail camera or participating online here at Zooniverse.

In 2016, we released two resources to help educators with implementing Snapshot Wisconsin in their classroom: Snapshot Wisconsin Field Guide for help with animal identification and Snapshot Wisconsin in the Classroom which catalogues lesson plans relevant to Snapshot Wisconsin by topic and grade level.

Today, we are pleased to announce a new resource available to educators–the Data Exploration Toolkit. The Toolkit is designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore the real data generated by Snapshot Wisconsin. It consists of:

  1. A dataset which provides information on over 2,000 images captured in the first year of the Snapshot Wisconsin project, including links to over 600 photos. The dataset is available both as a Microsoft Excel file and as a Google Sheet, making it easy to use with Google Classroom.
  2. guiding document with recommended uses for the dataset.
  3. A YouTube video demonstrating sample analyses.

Together, students and educators can ask their own scientific questions and explore data through graphing exercises or statistical analyses. The Toolkit can be used across grade levels and subject areas including mathematics and science.

Links to these resources can also be found on the Education tab of the Zooniverse page – check them out!

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Michael Theine’s students show off bar graphs they made using data from the Snapshot Wisconsin Data Exploration Toolkit

A big thank you to educators who reviewed and provided helpful feedback on an earlier version of the Toolkit! Funding for the above products was provided by the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

What is this collar for and how does it work?

If you frequent Snapshot Wisconsin, you may have noticed photos of wildlife with funny looking collars around their necks.  Maybe you’ve wondered, “What is this collar for and how does it work?”

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