Archive by Author | Taylor_Peltier

August #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap goes to this impressive buck giving the classic “camera stare.” Thanks for the nomination, @momsabina! Look closely, you may also notice a buddy in the background! Check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Southwest CWD, Predator, Prey Project for more information about white tailed deer in Wisconsin.

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Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

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Announcement: Educator Resources Updates!

Riding on the wake of Snapshot Wisconsin’s statewide launch last week (see here), we are excited to announce updates to our educator resources. Snapshot Wisconsin is a fantastic opportunity to engage students in outdoor learning and to teach them about local wildlife. With over 200 educators enrolled in the Snapshot program, we thought it would be beneficial to have a wide-ranging group of lesson plans and resources available.

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Lesson Plan Updates

We are excited to announce that our suite of lesson plans is now freely available on our website (see here). These lesson plans, including “Wildlife Detectives” and “Measuring Biodiversity”, have been designed for use by educators whether or not they are hosting a trail camera! Our 10 lesson plans can be used for students of all ages, from pre-k through adulthood, and are an excellent way to incorporate exciting concepts about Wisconsin wildlife into classrooms or nature centers. To fit our lesson plans in with curriculum, we’ve made sure to meet Wisconsin’s Standards for Science.

“When I began using Snapshot Wisconsin and hosting a Trail Cam, I realized how much fun it would be to develop lessons for our local school that has a school forest and is hosting a DNR Trail Cam. The pictures from Snapshot Wisconsin inject excitement into the Wisconsin Science and Math standards. They transform abstract concepts into local experiences.” – Mary from Bayfield County

Additionally, check out our flashcard collection on our lesson plan page. These printable activities are a fun way to learn and practice animal species identification in Wisconsin. Test your skills with beginner through expert level flash cards. Below is an example from our “canid collection”.

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NEW: Educator Newsletter

SIGNUP to receive our biannual educator newsletter for lesson plan updates and other classroom resources. This is a newsletter designed specifically for educators and separate from The Snapshot, our monthly volunteer e-newsletter.

Connect with other Educators

On our Zooniverse site, where volunteers from around the world can classify Wisconsin wildlife captured on Snapshot cameras, we have a page dedicated to connecting educators. Visit this talk board to discuss the use of Snapshot Wisconsin in the classroom.

A special thank you to all the educators who reviewed and provided helpful feedback on our lesson plans. YOU make updates to the project like this possible!

 

New Blog Series: Non-Invasive Surveying Methods

From the Snapshot Wisconsin program, you may be familiar with wildlife monitoring using trail cameras. Trail cameras are one wildlife monitoring tool classified into a group of monitoring techniques that are considered non-invasive, meaning that the technique causes little or no impact on the animal’s normal activity, ecology or physiology. By contrast, invasive monitoring techniques include any type of wildlife monitoring that has a direct, human caused impact on an animal (GPS collaring, tagging, close observation are a few examples). In this blog post series, we are going to highlight other non-invasive monitoring methods and include ways you can get involved in these types of non-invasive monitoring! Our first post on non-invasive monitoring is focused on.. tracking!

Tracking

A gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) left tracks on a piece of paper that utilized bait and a track plate to collect non-invasive information such as species and occupancy.

Tracking involves locating animal footprints and identifying the species. This monitoring technique can be done during all times of year in snow, mud, dirt or sand. You can learn a lot about an animal by its tracks. For example, you can tell what gait the animal was in (walk, trot, lope, spring), where it was heading to and from and if the animal was travelling in a group or alone.

Taking accurate measurements of tracks can help ID an animal. If you don’t have a ruler, use your foot or hand for size reference for identification later. This was taken by Taylor Peltier, from the Snaspshot Wisconsin team. Any guess who it belongs to?

Researchers can use tracks to estimate abundance, home ranges and behavior patterns. This can be especially helpful for monitoring more elusive animals that are sensitive to human disturbance.

One research project that uses tracks to estimate abundance is the Wisconsin winter wolf count. Using tracks in the snow, the DNR can estimate a minimum wolf count. For more information about that project, check out this link.

Stay tuned for more non-invasive survey method blog posts! Upcoming will be a post featuring how scat, hair and even eDNA play a role in wildlife research.

 

Elk Calf Searching

After two days of meticulous searching in the rain, a crew of about ten people (including two Snapshot team members) dejectedly walked out of the forest. We were searching for elk (Cervus canadensis) calves in the Clam Lake and Flambeau River State Forest regions of Wisconsin, and had not had any luck thus far. Just as we were leaving, a biologist on the crew softly yelled “elk!”. Nestled into the side of a tree was a small brown creature perfectly camouflaged with the surrounding dead leaves. We estimated that we had walked by the little calf three times without noticing her!

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The female elk calf that Snapshot Wisconsin team members helped to find. She was a little soggy from the rain.

The elk biologists put a blindfold over the elk calf to keep her calm. With hushed voices, they took measurements, applied ear tags, fitted her with a VHF (very high frequency) collar for location tracking and then moved away. Collars provide information on mortality, movement and herd interactions throughout the calves’ lifetimes. Collectively, this data can be used to help inform management decisions for Wisconsin’s elk herds.

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Elk calves are fitted with VHF collars and ear tags for identification and location tracking. Photograph credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

For more information about Wisconsin’s elk herds, check out this link.

May #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap of a crisp looking coyote (Canis latrans) was nominated by @WInature. Coyotes are also known as the brushwolf, prairie wolf, kyute, little wolf and mush-quo-de-ma-in-gon (Chippewa). For more fun facts about coyotes, visit this link.

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Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

A Booming Success: Prairie Chickens and Trail Cameras

What looks like a chicken, lives in the prairie and has one of the most phenomenal displays of courtship in the animal kingdom? You guessed it, the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)! Earlier this spring, Snapshot Wisconsin teamed up with WDNR biologists in the Buena Vista Grasslands area to implement a prairie chicken trail camera monitoring project in Wisconsin.

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Greater prairie chicken males display on “lekking” grounds, which typically consist of a mound just a little higher up than the surrounding area. The males strut their stuff, including tufts of feathers that look like ears and orange air sacs the males use to “boom”.

In the 1950’s, the greater prairie chicken was close to extinction in the state of Wisconsin. The WDNR, in partnership with conservation groups, established a prairie chicken management program. Every year in early spring, WDNR biologists begin thoroughly surveying known greater prairie chicken lekking grounds to track population size and locations of leks.  The protection and monitoring of the species has helped the comeback of the prairie chicken in Wisconsin. Currently, a few thousand chickens can be found in the central part of the state.

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Photo of a male greater prairie chicken taken from a Snapshot Wisconsin camera.

This year, Snapshot Wisconsin deployed 15 cameras to help supplement monitoring efforts. Trail cameras can efficiently and continuously survey known lekking grounds to count peak numbers of males at each lek.

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Snapshot Wisconsin team members and WDNR biologists stand behind the traditional surveying blind and a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

The team had a blast deploying trail cameras at lekking grounds. For those of you who own trail cameras, you may be familiar with the walk test. In the chicken camera test, we ended up crawling to test if a chicken would be detected on camera. This resulted in a lot grass in our clothes and an equal amount of laughter.

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For more information on Wisconsin’s prairie chickens check out this link.

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April #SuperSnap

Spring has finally arrived! In celebration of the warmer weather and spring flowers here in Wisconsin, our April #SuperSnap goes to this ballerina deer jumping for joy. Thanks for the nomination @momsabina!

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Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Celebrate Citizen Science Day!

citizen-science-day-logo-bigCitizen science invites you to contribute to scientific research no matter where or who you are! For the Snapshot Wisconsin project, citizen scientists deploy and monitor trail cameras and classify photos on Zooniverse. We’d like to take the opportunity to acknowledge our hardworking citizen scientist volunteers and promote Citizen Science Day 2018.

On April 14th, the Citizen Science Association kicked off a month-long extravaganza to promote citizen science. Citizen science is an incredible opportunity for the public to contribute to a wide array of science projects, from air and water monitoring, galaxy identifying and wildlife science. To see a calendar of the hundreds of events happening around the world for Citizen Science Day, check out this link.

The Wisconsin Citizen Based Monitoring Network is another great resource to find citizen science projects in Wisconsin. Check out the events list for ways to become involved.

 

March #SuperSnap

Since hearing the familiar claketty-clack and bugle calling this spring, it only felt fitting to choose this photo series of a colt and adult Sandhill for the March #SuperSnap! For more information about Sandhill Cranes, check out this link. Thanks for the nomination @sarahcameron and @sbreich!

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Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Taylor’s Fisher Frenzy

An inquisitive fisher plays around with a non-invasive sampling box.

Before joining the Snapshot crew, I worked on a long-term fisher (Pekania pennanti) monitoring project in a beautiful section of Northern California, called the Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region.

Our study focused on one of two endemic populations of fishers on the West coast found in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Fisher populations declined in the 1800s and early 1900s due mainly to trapping and habitat loss. This study was undertaken 11 years ago in response to a petition to list the fisher as a federally endangered species (which was ultimately overruled).

The goals of the project are to better understand the size and robustness of the western fisher population, explore species interactions between meso-carnivores (such as gray fox and ringtail), and investigate fisher responses to wildfires. It’s a very dynamic and exciting project to work on, with lots of valuable questions to explore.

The red X marks the location of our study area within the fisher’s historical and current range.

We used baited, corrugated plastic boxes at 100 historical locations to track our fisher populations. The boxes were fitted with a metal track plate covered in contact paper and ink, along with a glue strip that caught hair from critters passing through the box.

An example of a fisher paw print compared to my hand. Tracks of fisher, gray fox, spotted skunk, ringtail, and other species were used to calculate occupancy estimates. Hair samples were used to calculate fisher density throughout the study area.

Every day for three months, my co-worker and I would set off into the woods to collect track plates and hair snares.  This usually meant 10-12 hour days of driving around the Klamath National Forest, punctuated by steep hikes to retrieve samples in the forest.

The Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region has one of the highest diversities of conifers in the world. The area is marked by steep, rugged terrain and deep, river gorges.

Even though we never outright saw the feisty fishers, we began to expect “visits” from them at our boxes. We collected tracks and hair from the same boxes every week. The fishers certainly appreciated the chicken and cat food we left as bait for them! Our weekly box checks became like meeting up with old friends. At one site, I collected a female’s tracks and hair every week for two months. She never made a mess of the bait or destroyed the box (which I greatly appreciated)!

All in all, I had a terrific experience that helped me to understand the importance of non-invasive sampling (i.e., sampling that does not require capturing animals – like the camera trap method used in Snapshot Wisconsin)!

If you are still curious about the non-invasive sampling boxes, check out this video of the box setup.