Happy Spring! the Snapshot Wisconsin team in spending the month of May bopping around the upper Midwest for trainings, fieldwork and conferences, oh my! We’ve been checking in on Zooniverse from the road, but we apologize if we’ve been less responsive than usual this season. Here are some highlights:
New elk cameras!
A new cohort of elk will be released into the Flambeau River State Forest (FRSF) in Sawyer County this summer (south of the existing Clam Lake herd). The Snapshot Team traveled to FRSF to train volunteers who will be hosting cameras in this new area. We also got to tromp through the woods ourselves to put up some of the cameras, and came across lots of animal sign, wildflowers and other indications that spring has sprung.
Citizen Science Association conference
We learned a lot about the field of citizen science at the Citizen Science Association conference in St. Paul, Minnesota last week. At our tabling session we met all kinds of wonderful people managing citizen science projects, including other trail camera projects. It was wonderful to hear about all the fantastic work going on in citizen science, and we came home with a list of ideas on how to improve our own project. Team member Christine Anhalt-Depies gave a great talk about what motivates our trail camera hosts to participate in Snapshot Wisconsin.
New counties, new trainings!
This month, we’re providing trainings for our trail camera hosts in St. Croix, Oneida and Marinette counties. Stay tuned for 6 new counties opening for enrollment in the next couple weeks!
This Friday, May 19, Christine, Christina and Susan will represent Snapshot Wisconsin at a Night in the Cloud in St. Paul, Minnesota. For those of you in the Twin Cities area, come down and learn about 100+ hands-on projects & see a screening of “The Crowd and the Cloud.” We’d love to see you!
Thanks to a dedicated effort by our volunteers, Wisconsin DNR staff and University of Wisconsin students, we were able to classify all of the elk photos from 2016!
This Science Update features data from the Clam Lake elk area only, due to a lack of elk photos from the Black River Falls area. From GPS collar information, we know that many of the Black River Falls elk prefer to hang out outside of our camera area (perhaps they are bashful?). When we have more Snapshot Wisconsin cameras in the counties surrounding Black River Falls, we hope to have enough data for a Science Update on those elk as well.
There were 120 cameras active in the Clam Lake area in 2016, capturing 3,996 triggers containing elk. After grouping consecutive triggers showing the same elk, we ended up with 305 unique elk events.
We graphed daily activity patterns of antlerless elk and bulls from the 305 unique elk events. Overall, elk were most active between 6 and 9 AM and 5 and 6 PM. Antlerless elk were most active around dawn and dusk, while bull activity peaked later in the morning and evening.
We also graphed monthly elk activity throughout 2016. Because not all of our cameras were active during the entire year, we corrected photo hit rate based on the percentage of cameras active each week. The image below shows this corrected photo count for antlerless elk and bull elk throughout 2016.
The marked spike in bull activity at weeks 36 through 40 indicates the annual rut period. That period corresponds to a sharp drop off in activity level for antlerless elk; cows tend to stay put during that period while bulls move around more. (Curious about why this might be? Click here for more information on elk life history and mating behavior.) The trail cameras give us the ability to pinpoint the time frame of the rut period more precisely than we were previously able.
The following post is by guest blogger Andrew L’Roe, a friend of Snapshot Wisconsin and fellow nature lover. Thanks for the post, Andrew!
This second post in our series on careers in natural resources. Last time we featured careers in human dimensions of natural resources. This time, we’re talking about spatial analysis and its role in natural resource management.
Spatial analysts work with any kind of data that can be represented spatially: roads, lakes, land use/landcover, weather systems, landmarks, demographics, and many many more. They use tools like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize data and create maps to show relationships among variables.
In natural resource fields, we can use GIS to, among many other things, map suitable habitat for different species, plot animal movements using GPS collar data, and create species distribution maps. Using spatial analyses we can answer questions like: “Are black bears attracted to areas with higher or lower human population density?” “Are sandhill cranes more commonly found near wetlands or near corn fields?” “Where do the habitat ranges of red fox and gray fox overlap?” “Is the range of fishers expanding southward?”
For Snaphshot Wisconsin, we’ve used GIS to make preliminary maps of animal presence in certain localized areas. A possible next step is to test correlations between animal presence and environmental variables to find out more about why animals go where they go. We hope that once the project is rolled out statewide we will be able to ask these types of questions for the whole state!
Because Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras put a time and date stamp on each photo, we are able to capture the diurnal (daytime), nocturnal (nighttime), and crepuscular (active early and late in the day) behavioral patterns of different species. The graphs below show daily activity patterns using the 24-hour clock for three categories of animals captured on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras in Iowa and Sawyer Counties from June 1 – September 7, 2016.
Bears were most active during the day and used the midday hours more than any of the other large mammals, while coyotes and deer showed the strongest crepuscular behaviors:
Porcupines were most active in the early morning hours before sunrise. Mustelids were uniquely active during a short portion of the early daytime hours:
Grouse activity was fairly steady through the day while turkey activity increased as the day progressed:
Food for thought: why might it be beneficial for animals to be more active during certain times of the day and not others?
You may have heard that Snapshot Wisconsin researchers ask volunteers to place cameras at least 100 yards (~100 m) away from bait and feed. Bait and feed are materials placed outdoors to intentionally attract wild animals, and may include food, scent materials, salt, minerals, grains, birdfeeders, and carcasses. Bait and feed attract really interesting animals that we love to see on camera, so why do we ask our trail camera hosts to avoid them?
The following post is by a guest blogger, Dougal Walker, Internet & Communications Manager at the Wisconsin DNR.
Thanks to all who helped classify photos for Season 2 of Snapshot Wisconsin! The season is now complete, with 39,885 photo triggers retired in 61 days. If you’re looking for ways to avoid the between-season blues while we prep for Season 3, how about getting in touch with your inner artist or poet? Read on for inspiration…
From its beginning, the Snapshot Wisconsin project was conceived as a way to benefit wildlife management and advance science, while encouraging the general public to become more engaged with the natural world. Its connections to art, on the other hand, were not readily apparent, but we’ve been overjoyed that these connections have arisen naturally. Two recent examples:
Example One. Snapshot Wisconsin scientist Jen Stenglein was recently invited to talk at the James Watrous Gallery, surrounded by Valerie Mangion’s paintings inspired by trail camera images from her Wisconsin farm. Mangion says she hopes that “the animals featured in Night Vision come across as the individuals they are, not as stand-ins for, or as symbols of, an entire species or the attributes we humans assign to them.” Check out more info on Valerie and see some of her paintings from her Night Vision exhibit here.
Wildlife researchers often think of the animals in trail camera photos as data points that, when taken together, reveal trends and patterns of general populations. It is incredibly refreshing and important to realize another perspective, that each individual animal has a personality that is deserving of a painting, poem or song. This is something many of our Zooniverse volunteers understand intuitively, but has taken awhile for the researchers to catch on!
Example Two. Maine-based nature aficionada and Zooniverse volunteer extraordinaire gardenmaeve wrote a lovely poem inspired by a Snapshot Wisconsin image of a deer at daybreak (Subject #299116), and has graciously agreed to share. Thank you gardenmaeve!
Awake in the wee hours, now rosy with sunrise,
She gulps earthy breaths of the sweet Jackson air.
Replete with cold twig tips, with old stems, with new greens,
She lingers in sunrise. The morning is fair.
With scarcely seen mist rising faster than sunrise
She mouths every scent like a well-savored cud.
A crow calls up morning, then hushes in dawn-lift
Brief peace for the doe as she seeks tender buds.
Do you have a poem to share, inspired by nature or a particular Snapshot Wisconsin image? Share it in the poetry thread!