Are you ready to celebrate Citizen Science Day?
Before we dive into the details, let’s start with what is citizen science? There are many definitions for citizen science, which may also be referred to as community science, crowd-sourced science or volunteer monitoring. The Oxford English Dictionary defines citizen science as,
“Scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.”
Citizen scientists partaking in Snapshot Wisconsin monitor trail cameras across to state to gather year-round data about wildlife. Data collected from the project help inform wildlife management decisions at the WDNR, and also engage the public in learning about the state’s natural resources. Snapshot Wisconsin has over one thousand volunteers hosting trail cameras across the state, and hundreds more from around the globe helping to identify the wildlife caught on camera on Zooniverse.
Citizen Science Day is hosted annually to celebrate and recognize the projects, researchers, and dedicated volunteers that contribute to citizen science all over the world. Mark your calendars for April 13th, this year’s Citizen Science Day kick-off! The Citizen Science Association and SciStarter have teamed up to promote events in celebration of citizen science. Are you interested in celebrating Citizen Science Day this year? Check out SciStarter’s project finder to find Citizen Science Day events near you!
You can celebrate citizen science any day of the year by participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, whether you are interested in hosting a trail camera or identifying the exciting critters captured on camera (which can be done from anywhere!)
Some of us like to stay up late and others prefer to snooze, you might be a homebody or always on the move…in case you didn’t realize – animals are the same way too!
Have you ever wondered what Wisconsin animal best embodies your habits? Now is your chance to find out! Take our quiz to find out what Wisconsin animal you are.
This quiz was developed by Sarah Cameron, Christine Anhalt-Depies, and Ally Magnin of the Snapshot Wisconsin Team.
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.
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”.
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!
What is a Snap-a-thon you may ask? Take a guess from one of three options below.
- A wildlife photography marathon.
- A classification party with the Snapshot Wisconsin project.
- A marathon for snapping turtles.
If you selected option 2, you are right!
If you read our newsletter or visit our website often, you will notice that the Snapshot Wisconsin project generates a lot of data. We have collected nearly 21 million photos so far. These photos become useful to support wildlife management decisions only when they have a classification tag attached to them and their accuracy is reliable. We have help on hand – more than a thousand trail camera hosts and nearly six thousand Zooniverse volunteers helping us classify these pictures. The idea behind a Snap-a-thon is to spread the word about the project even farther while running a fun competition using the Zooniverse website.
How a Snap-a-thon works is very simple: participants team up or play alone to classify pictures on Snapshot Wisconsin’s Zooniverse page for a set amount of time, typically 20 minutes. Each team is given a checklist of species. During the competition, participants tick off any of the listed species that they see and classify correctly. For uncommon or difficult-to-classify species, participants must raise their hands to get verification from the project team before their classifications are counted. Uncommon species or uncommon occurrences (like multiple species seen together in a photo sequence) also earn participants a higher score. In the end, we tally up the scores and declare a winner. So far, we’ve had 4 such contests and our contestants want to keep classifying even after the time is up. So, it’s pretty addictive!
Pictures from previous Snap-a-thons:
If you’d like to host your own Snap-a-thon, drop us an email at DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov and we’ll provide you with resources!
Citizen 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this post, I’ll be talking a little bit about my experiences with citizen science and camera trapping projects prior to joining Snapshot Wisconsin.
Before I decided to become a wildlife conservation professional, I was involved with citizen science projects as a volunteer. I found pleasure in natural history, making observations and collecting data for scientists. This was my contribution to saving the world, I thought! As a volunteer, I have done large mammal surveys in India, from counting tiger prey species to collecting carnivore scat. I learned a lot from participating in these projects. More than anything else, I think they provided a welcome distraction from my day job as a software programmer *chuckle*.
I was also involved with conservation groups in the Western Ghats landscape of India. One project I am proud of being associated with is the Bisle Frog Watch. Every year citizen scientists congregate at Bisle (a tiny village in the Western Ghats) to learn about amphibian ecology and identify them in the wild under the guidance of researchers. What is heartening is that over a period of 6 years, we have made a checklist of 36 species of amphibians!
Apart from mammals and amphibians, I also love bird watching and regularly submit my bird lists to eBird.
Some of these experiences with citizen science gave me the confidence that I too can do scientific research. And, that’s also how I decided to pursue a Master’s degree.
Talking about my camera trapping experiences, I worked on a trail camera survey in Ecuador for my Master’s capstone project. I worked with an Ecuador based non-profit called Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation. We set up a total of 16 camera traps on several private properties and nature reserves in the Manabi province of coastal Ecuador.
Whereas the most common species in Snapshot Wisconsin is the white-tailed deer, in my project in Ecuador it was the agouti. (Although white-tailed deer have been recorded in the study site in Ecuador, they are uncommon in those parts of the world.) Whereas in Snapshot Wisconsin we see bobcats, in Ecuador we frequently recorded wild cats like ocelot, margay and jaguarundi.
In fact, I am even leaving an identification challenge for some pictures from Ecuador. Feel free to leave your guesses( along with the picture number) in the comments below. I shall post the answers soon-ish!
All in all, it is exciting to be working on the Snapshot Wisconsin project – with the many citizen scientists who host camera traps across Wisconsin and many others from around the world classifying pictures – knowing we have something in common.
Picture credits: Frog watch pictures – Deepika Prasad; Camera trap pictures from Ecuador – Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation.
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:
- The Deer Management Assistance Program which provides habitat and deer herd management assistance to landowners.
- The Managed Forest Law program which provides incentives for sustainable forest management in private woodlands.
- The Landowner Incentive Program which is designed to help private landowners create and manage habitat for rare or declining species.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- A guiding document with recommended uses for the dataset.
- 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!
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.