As long-term Snapshot Wisconsin team member, Vivek Malleshappa, transitions to his new role in California with Esri, we wanted to share a newsletter article that he wrote for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve where he hosted his own Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. Thank you, Vivek!
The Lakeshore Nature Preserve has been a sanctuary for me since I started my master’s degree in Environmental Science at UW-Madison. Living ‘next door’ in Eagle Heights Apartments, whenever I needed a break from schoolwork, I hopped out to the Preserve with my binoculars. Watching a downy woodpecker chip away at a tree was enough to unwind. I still live here with my wife and we are grateful for the easy access to a natural area as beautiful as the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. I wanted to volunteer for the Preserve and decided to host a trail camera with Snapshot Wisconsin, where I work. Before I talk about all the cool wildlife we are seeing from the trail camera, I want to introduce you to Snapshot Wisconsin.
Snapshot Wisconsin is a volunteer-based trail camera project managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Volunteers across the state of Wisconsin participate in the project by hosting a trail camera on their private land or public lands to collect data, which is used in wildlife management decision support.
I have been operating the camera at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve since December 2018 and it has already captured some amazing pictures. From commonly seen raccoons and opossums, to the somewhat secretive red fox and the less common deer, there is a variety of wildlife passing by the camera.
While deriving wildlife population insights from this one camera is difficult, at a minimum it tells us about what species occupy this landscape. And, all the cameras across the state of Wisconsin together are helping us paint a picture of wildlife presence and populations. To find out more about the statewide project and possibly get involved, at the Snapshot Wisconsin website.
I look forward to seeing many more interesting pictures from the camera at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Here are some of my favorites so far and I hope you like them as much as I do.
On Friday, April 12th, Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer John came across something extraordinary. After making routine checks of his elk cameras in Black River Falls, he headed home to upload his photos. During the standard process of review and classification, one photo in particular stood out amongst the sea of deer and turkeys. John recognized it immediately. “That’s a big white crane with a red head!” he exclaimed. “Woah, this is a whooping crane!”
John knew how rare they are, having only seen them at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. That was 30 years ago, when his kids were young. John wanted to verify his discovery before sharing his excitement with the Snapshot team. “I went to my smartphone to verify that I was seeing the correct animal, and I said, ‘Yup, that’s a whooping crane!’” Sure enough, not only had John captured a rare species, but he had photographed the first whooping crane in the history of Snapshot Wisconsin.
He couldn’t believe how spectacular the image was. “It was a beautiful photo! It was at 8 in the morning, and it must have just landed. It had its wings up – it looked like it was dancing in front of the camera! I thought wow, what a perfect picture.”
John has been involved in the project for one and a half years, and currently maintains five cameras in the Black River Falls elk reintroduction area. John’s passion for the outdoors and interest in Wisconsin elk motivated him to become a Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer after retirement. “I like to get out into new locations and explore. It’s kind of a spiritual experience for me to be in the outdoors.” He also appreciates the opportunity to stay active. “I get a little exercise. I don’t like to be on a treadmill, I would rather be walking in the woods and seeing things. [Snapshot Wisconsin] is a good fit for me.”
When asked about his favorite part of participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, John shared that he enjoys being in the woods, seeing the wildlife and exploring new areas. He also welcomes the challenge of finding his camera sites. “Navigation is challenging,” he explained, “finding a camera based on a certain grid coordinate is kind of exciting.”
Capturing the memorable photo of the whooping crane has only added to John’s experience as a volunteer. “I’m glad I got an animal that was interesting. I have gotten bear, wolves, and bobcats [and] of course a lot of deer and turkey. But the whooping crane was kind of the icing on the cake. I am looking forward to getting other interesting animals.”
John also recognizes how this whooping crane sighting is significant in terms of the conservation of this endangered species. When asked what it means to him to be a part of this crane’s story, John said, “It’s kind of interesting. I think my job is kind of small but sometimes it ends up being a big production. It shows how small the world is and how everybody can make a difference no matter what they do.”
June’s Volunteer of the Month is
Ralph from Sauk County!
June’s Volunteer of the Month is Ralph from Sauk County! Ralph has been a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera host for over two years. Growing up on a farm Ralph enjoyed rambling around the fields and forests, and although he spent his career as a machinist, his love for the forest endured. His motivation for joining Snapshot Wisconsin and hosting a trail camera was to examine several questions he had about his woods, including what predator-prey relationships existed and how many deer were on the landscape.
In addition to volunteering with Snapshot Wisconsin, Ralph is also the chair of the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association (WWOA). As an active member of WWOA, Ralph enjoys helping other woodland owners learn how to sustainably manage and preserve their woodlands for present and future generations.
Thank you, Ralph! Thank you to all of our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
May’s Volunteer of the Month is
Chris from Portage County!
May’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Chris from Portage County! Chris is a Professor of Biology at UW-Stevens Point. Chris was first introduced to citizen science around 10 years ago through the Wisconsin Bat Program. In collaboration with the Urban Ecology Center and Milwaukee area high school teachers, Chris has since developed a bat curriculum that incorporates citizen science, or as it is known in Milwaukee, community science.
Chris first discovered the Zooniverse platform about two years ago, which led him to learn about Snapshot Wisconsin. After he began hosting his own trail camera, Chris stated that he was initially annoyed by a fawn that rested in front of his camera resulting in hundreds of photos (which we are sure many volunteer have experienced!) Chris’s “aha moment” was then realizing how interesting the data collected about that fawn was – time alert, sleeping, stretching, foraging.
When asked about his advice for potential volunteers, Chris shared, “There are lots of citizen science projects, but Snapshot Wisconsin does a great job of motivating its volunteers. Start with Zooniverse. Snapshot Wisconsin was a pioneer project on this global platform and will connect you immediately to Wisconsin wildlife. If you are hooked by Snapshot like I was, you can consider hosting your own camera and become a small part of a big thing.”
Thank you, Chris! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
April’s Volunteer of the Month is
Mark and Sue from Columbia County!
April’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Mark and Sue from Columbia County! Before retirement, Mark and Sue spent their careers as Conservation Biologists for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program. For the past 40 years they have served as resident managers at the Madison Audubon Society’s Goose Pond Sanctuary. Goose Pond Sanctuary, located near Arlington, is comprised of 660 acres including restored tallgrass prairie, wetlands, some cropland and a one-acre oak savannah. In addition to hosting two Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, Mark and Sue are also involved in trapping and releasing black-footed ferrets in South Dakota to vaccinate them against Sylvatic plague.
Mark and Sue were motivated to join Snapshot Wisconsin because they enjoyed viewing and surveying wildlife and wanted to use the project to help Madison Audubon members to learn about the wildlife at the Goose Pond Sanctuary. The project provides them a way to view the wildlife responses to habitat restorations on the property, and to see how populations change over time. A few previously absent species they were intrigued to find in their photos were coyote and red fox. Mark and Sue also capture a great diversity of avian life including Cooper’s hawk, snowy owl, ring-necked pheasants, northern harrier and more. Check out a glimpse of what Mark and Sue are finding below!
Thank you, Mark and Sue! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
March’s Volunteer of the Month is
Melanie and Trees For Tomorrow from Vilas County!
March’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Melanie and the Trees For Tomorrow staff in Vilas County! Trees For Tomorrow (TFT) is a nonprofit natural resources specialty school in Eagle River, WI whose mission is to promote sustainable management of our natural resources through transformative educational experiences. TFT’s field-based programs place students in direct contact with nature, providing the knowledge and skills to prepare today’s youth to be tomorrow’s stewards of our natural world. Founded in 1944, Trees For Tomorrow is proud to be celebrating 75 years of conservation education in Wisconsin. Melanie and TFT have been hosting a Snapshot Wisconsin camera since July of 2017.
Melanie, the Environmental Science Educator for TFT, shared, “Participating in Snapshot Wisconsin has allowed us to learn more about the wildlife that lives at Trees For Tomorrow as well as engage our students and guests in exciting, hands-on learning!” Trees For Tomorrow keeps their visitors updated on what critters are making appearances at the property on their phenology board, which you can see below. Additionally, their education team created a trail camera class where students can learn about cameras, how to scout for good sites, and analyze trail camera data to investigate life histories of local species.
Thank you, Melanie and Trees For Tomorrow! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
Find out more about Trees For Tomorrow by visiting their website here.
February’s Volunteer of the Month is
Mike from Iowa County!
February’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Mike from Iowa County, one of the first two counties where Snapshot Wisconsin started recruiting volunteers. Mike was no stranger to trail cameras when he joined the project two years ago—he had spent his career as a biologist in the tropics where he used trail cameras as one technique to study and conserve wildlife.
“Camera trap techniques motivate me because the photos are a fantastic way to learn about wildlife. The pictures are a moment in time of critters’ daily movement that is captured forever,” Mike said.
Birds are among his favorite critters captured at his site, including sandhill cranes, pileated woodpeckers and a great horned owl (who Mike noted doesn’t appear to have caught the squirrel repeatedly triggering his camera). Check out this awesome photo below that Mike shared of a squabbling pileated woodpecker and crow. In addition to participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, he is also involved with wintertime roosting eagle counts with the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council.
Thank you, Mike! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
January’s Volunteer of the Month is
Duanne from Vilas County!
January’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Duanne from Vilas County! Duanne is a long-time citizen scientist who has participated in a variety of projects including wolf tracking, lake monitoring, Snapshot Wisconsin and more. As a 50+ year bow hunting veteran, he immediately fell in love with monitoring what was going on in the natural world when he wasn’t there.
Duanne has spent more than two years monitoring trail cameras in the Clam Lake elk reintroduction area, though his first experience camera trapping came when his son gifted him a trail camera over 20 years ago. When asked about his favorite part of participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, Duanne responded, “probably just another excuse to get out in the woods” – we couldn’t agree more! He also shared that he enjoys reviewing and editing the pictures as each is a new opportunity to see something exciting. Below is a photo of the first elk that Duanne saw on one of his Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, which is quite the impressive looking buck!
Thank you, Duanne! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
December’s Volunteers of the Month are
Colleen and Jerry from Ashland County!
December’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Colleen and Jerry from Ashland County! The duo moved up to the Clam Lake area in the early 2000’s to build their log cabin, and love everything connected to the Northwoods. Both Colleen and Jerry work at the local gas station, the Clam Lake Junction, which keeps them grounded and connected to their small community – they even put up a pickleball court there!
Colleen and Jerry were some of the very first volunteers to get involved monitoring Snapshot Wisconsin cameras in the Clam Lake elk reintroduction area. Colleen shared that they joined to project because it was something they could do together, and gave them an opportunity to further explore the area. The two have since played a key role in keeping up with the elk herd.
Thank you, Colleen and Jerry! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
October’s Volunteer of the Month is
Roger from Sawyer County!
November’s Volunteer of the Month is Roger from Sawyer County. Roger was one of the first Snapshot Wisconsin volunteers, as he reaches 2.5 years with the project this month – wow! Roger enjoys hunting, fishing, and being outdoors every day.
Roger’s camera site is a fan favorite, and staff go-to for exciting photos. Roger recently stated, “One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was early in the program, I had a picture of eight otters going down a trail that I maintain on my property. This picture was used in a publication for the University of Wisconsin.” Images from Roger’s camera have also been used in a Snapshot Wisconsin lesson plan, Making Observations, where students are able to observations about animal behavior over time and space.
Thank you, Roger! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.