Archive by Author | Christine Anhalt-Depies

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.

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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?”

Read More…

Careers in Natural Resources

This post is the first in a brand new series on our blog about careers in natural resources.  Within this field, careers are incredibly diverse and can range from a focus on genetics and biotechnology to parks and recreation.

The Snapshot Wisconsin research team itself is diverse. It is made up of scientists at various stages in their careers including university faculty, agency scientists, and students.  We specialize in outreach, wildlife management, remote sensing, quantitative analysis, social science, and more.  You can learn more about the team members here.

Today’s blog is on careers in human dimensions of natural resources.  Individuals who work in human dimensions focus on the political, social, or economic components of conservation or management challenges.  Their work may focus on understanding the perspectives of natural resources stakeholders, collaborating with communities to achieve solutions to environmental issues, or examining the social impacts of natural resource decisions.

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Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Positions they hold might include: outreach coordinator, environmental educator, sustainability coordinator, research scientist, professor, or consultant. Skills important to this career include communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to collaborate with diverse groups, and a background in natural resources policy, environmental economics, or the social sciences (such as psychology or sociology).

Citizen science projects live and die by their volunteers, so for projects like Snapshot Wisconsin, understanding the “human dimensions” is vital. For example, knowing volunteers’ motivations can help a project to better meet volunteer interests and needs. Some members of our Snapshot Wisconsin research team are social scientists that conduct research which may help to improve our project and understand the outcomes of the project, like what volunteer learn and take away from participating.

 

Who are the trail camera volunteers?

Season 3 of Snapshot Wisconsin will feature photos collect by volunteers right here in Wisconsin!

Volunteers who host trail cameras on private land are responsible for deploying and maintaining the cameras, as well as submitting photos to the Wisconsin DNR several times per year.  To date, 71 volunteers in two counties have been trained in the project. An additional 65 educators across the state are using Snapshot Wisconsin in their classroom. Next month the Wisconsin DNR will begin training volunteers in four more counties.

Here’s a closer look at who has volunteered to host a trail camera so far.

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If you are interested in learning more about volunteering for Snapshot Wisconsin, visit the project website or join the mailing list. Already a trail camera volunteer? Tell us about your favorite part of participating in Snapshot Wisconsin in the comments.

Young of the Year

At last count, we are 38% of the way through Season Two of Snapshot Wisconsin! On behalf of the research team, thank you! Keep up the great work!

Today I am sharing some of our favorite photos of deer fawns, bear cubs, and other young from previous seasons.  For the purposes of this project, we define “young” as offspring of the year, or animals less than one year old.  Because it is difficult to tell juveniles from adults by late fall, spring and summer photos are a great time to spot photos of young. To differentiate young from adults look for differences in body size, as well as juvenile markings, like the spots on deer fawns.  See our FAQ section for more details.

Have you spotted young of any other species? Share with us in the comments or on the Talk boards!

Linking trail cameras and remote sensing

One of our research goals is to understand where wildlife can be found across the state and how that distribution changes seasonally. Seasonal changes (i.e. phenology) are associated with the availability of cover and food for wildlife and are important in understanding the variability in species distributions. In this project, we are utilizing two ways to understand phenology: remote sensing data and trail camera images.

Remote sensing data:  Snapshot Wisconsin is partnering with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to use earth-observing satellites to capture broad scale changes in forest phenology across the state. NASA employs several satellites such as MODIS and Landsat that orbit the earth and take ‘pictures’ of the surface at regular intervals. These ‘pictures’ are composed of measures of light reflected off the surface of the earth. Different land cover types reflect light in distinct ways, and change across seasons as plants begin leaf growth, reach peak green-up, and begin to shed leaves in autumn. Using images from space, we can capture changes in forest productivity, and the timing of forest green-up and brown-down across large regions.

Trail camera images: In addition to the satellite data, we’ve leveraged the trail cameras to capture site specific phenological data.  You already know that the trail cameras take motion and heat triggered images. In addition, each camera is programmed to take one photo at approximately 11:00 a.m. each day, generating a set of time series photos.   The below video shows an example of green-up at one of our camera sites.

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11:00 a.m. trail camera photos taken over the course of 3 months

Another exciting application of these trail camera images is the opportunity to validate phenological models.  For a number of our cameras, we have fit phenological curves to the camera data (see below graph). Our analysis shows that the daily photo sets closely match MODIS satellite data. Future work will link this type of phenological data to our understanding of wildlife populations.

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Comparison of trail camera phenology (red) to MODIS phenology (green) for a trail camera