Archive by Author | Christine Anhalt-Depies

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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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.


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.


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.

Camera 4

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.

Camera 3

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



Deer and Elk Behaviors

Welcome to Snapshot Wisconsin! We are only 24 hours in and are already nearly 20% complete.  Thanks for all you do!

As you’ve probably already noticed, white-tailed deer and elk are captured frequently on our trail cameras.  This is because both species are abundant in the region of Wisconsin where the trail cameras are located. In addition, deer and elk are large, mobile animals that travel the visible wildlife trails along which the cameras are placed.  By classifying deer and elk in terms of adults and young, you are helping us to understand the population dynamics of the species.

But there’s more to learn from the trail camera photos, including an understanding of deer and elk behavior. Having additional information on behavior will allow us to investigate the impact predators have on the behavior of deer and elk. Trail cameras are unique in that they allow us to look at both the behavioral response to predators, in addition to the population response.

This Season we’re asking for your help to identify 5 behaviors for deer and elk: foraging, vigilance, interaction between individuals, resting, moving, and staring at the camera. How we are defining each of these behaviors is listed below, as well as in the field guide (tab on the right hand side of the page).

Foraging: Head down or below shoulder height and eating something or, rarely, a deer/elk obviously eating foliage above the shoulder

Vigilant: Head is up, ears erect, and alert posture

Interaction: Any direct physical interaction with another deer/elk; can be aggressive (fighting), play, or grooming

Camera Stare: Looking directly at the camera

Resting: Deer/elk has bedded down in front of the camera

Moving: Traveling by either walking or running