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In the Field with the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study

Imagine sitting in a truck parked alongside a snowy forest edge, playing a round of cribbage while dressed in full winter gear – a cooler of deer sedative wrapped around one arm, a deer blind wrapped around the other – anxiously awaiting a radio call to hop into action. This is how research technicians, Taylor and myself, spent our evening on February 8th as we tagged along to assist crew members trap and collar deer for the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study.

The combination of recent snowfall and prolonged bouts of cold temperatures provided an excellent opportunity to get out in the field and collar deer. These conditions are ideal because they make finding food more difficult; deer have to spend more time foraging and therefore are more likely to visit baited drop nets, one of the methods the study uses for trapping animals.

Crew members preparing to set up the drop net site. Photograph by Caitlin Henning

On our night out with the crew, one study technician sat in a blind proximal to the net and waited for a deer to visit. Meanwhile, we waited patiently roughly a quarter mile away to minimize noise at the site. Once a doe fawn was spotted feeding on the bait, the technician triggered the net to drop and radioed our crew before sprinting to restrain the doe and cover her eyes, reducing potential stress.

Research technicians sedating the doe fawn. Photograph by Caitlin Henning

In a burst of chaos, we quickly grabbed the equipment, hopped in the UTV, and sped to the net site. Upon arrival, a sedative was quickly applied. Once the doe was immobilized, we fit a GPS collar and applied ear tags, collected a genetic sample and a sample to test for CWD, and performed a series of body measurements. Throughout the process the doe was positioned on her sternum to maintain regular bodily functions and receive oxygen. We monitored her vitals routinely to ensure her safety and well-being. Upon completing these tasks, the sedation was reversed and we watched from a distance to make sure the doe woke up and was able to walk away safely.

Snapshot Wisconsin research technicians Sarah Cameron and Taylor Peltier. Photograph by Caitlin Henning

As of February, this project had collared 91 fawns, 263 deer, 21 bobcats, and 39 coyotes with the help of 174 volunteer landowners. Getting out in the field is an experience we would strongly recommend to anyone. If you’re in Wisconsin, you can explore opportunities to volunteer on WDNR projects near you!

Curious to learn more about the CWD, Deer and Predator study? Check out Caitlin Henning’s featured blog post, or visit the WDNR project webpage. Keep an eye out for these collared critters from Dane, Grant, and Iowa counties on our Snapshot Wisconsin Zooniverse site.

Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference

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Last week the Snapshot team traveled to Milwaukee to participate in the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference.  As a sponsor of the conference, Snapshot Wisconsin hosted a booth where we met and chatted with wildlife folks from around the Midwestern U.S.   We had a lot to show attendees, including some fun flashcards that the team put together to help people work on their classification skills. We were honored that our booth was chosen Best in Show!

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We also organized a Citizen Science symposium called “Collaboration with the Public for Natural Resource Research, Management and Conservation.”  The symposium focused on practical advice for citizen science project managers. Topics included protocol design, participant recruitment and training, data management, and evaluating program outcomes.  Presenters included WDNR project coordinators, a developer from Zooniverse, and the new director of the UW-Madison Arboretum.

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Christine Anhalt-Depies and Professor Tim Van Deelen

One of our Snapshot Wisconsin team members, Christine Anhalt-Depies, was chosen as the graduate student recipient of this year’s Leopold Scholarship from the Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society.  Christine was chosen based on her commitment to the wildlife profession and her exceptional commitment to her professional development in a way that honors the memory of Aldo Leopold.  Congratulations Christine!

Our new Snapshot Wisconsin mascot, Snappy the Snapshot Beaver, was a hit with students at the conference.  We were offering up a gift for anyone who posed with Snappy for a selfie and many students were happy to participate.

Snappy

Winter Camera Checks

While up north recently, the Snapshot Wisconsin Team had the opportunity to go out and check cameras in the Flambeau River elk monitoring grid. The weather was a balmy 27 °F, and the fresh air was much needed after long hours of travel. We split up into two groups of two, and headed out in separate directions to check cameras in different areas of the grid. Flambeau River State Park is a known dead zone for cell service, so we chose a time to reconvene before we split up. Both teams took two full hours longer than expected to complete their camera checks – which at least brought us back to the van at the same time! During the morning adventures, the team was reminded of some of the challenges unique to winter camera checks:

Waterproof boots will always be your friend. Melted snow, recent rainfall, or areas that are naturally wet may “dampen” your overall camera checking experience. If you have a pair of waterproof boots, or thick socks, you may want to consider bringing these along! Soggy shoes are never fun, especially in below freezing temperatures.

Tall waterproof boots (or waders) will always be your friend. No matter how waterproof your boots may be, they will only protect you for as high up as they cover. Also, what appears to be a puddle may actually be more like a miniature lake.

If you have a padlock for your camera, it may be frozen. If moisture gets inside the padlock and freezes, spinning the numbers can be difficult or impossible with fingers alone. To be on the safe side, bring an appropriate tool along to help thaw your padlock such as lock deicer, windshield deicer, or hand warmers.

Budget your time appropriately. Even if you think that your hike to your camera will only take thirty minutes, budget some wiggle room for inclement conditions. If you know you won’t have cell phone service in the woods, tell a friend or family member of your plans – this may include where you are parking your car, your intended route, what time you expect to be back, and what time to take further measures if you don’t return by. It’s easy to underestimate how long a camera check may take if you are comparing to previous checks during nicer weather.

Double check your GPS coordinates. Sometimes your phone and your personal GPS will tell you to go opposite directions, and you will find yourself circling around a swamp for thirty minutes. Sometimes it may be a technological glitch, but likely it will be human error. It never hurts to double check your GPS coordinates before venturing into the woods, especially if you know you won’t have good cell phone service, and especially if it’s cold outside.

Getting outside to check cameras was an overall great experience – and makes us even more appreciative of our volunteers and all their efforts they put forth for the project. Whether classifying photos online or hosting trail cameras, we couldn’t do this without all of you! Thank you!

Volunteer Recognition Events

It has now been a year and a half since Snapshot Wisconsin launched to the public in the first two counties, Iowa and Sawyer County! To commemorate the wonderful volunteers who have been with us since the beginning, the Snapshot Wisconsin team recently traveled to Dodgeville and Hayward to hold our very first volunteer recognition events.

The evenings included locally catered dinners, a presentation about project updates and scientific findings, as well as certificates and a prize basket drawing. It was great to reunite with volunteers that we haven’t seen since trainings, and to have face to face contact with those who are used to hearing from us solely by phone or email.

Overall it was a wonderful experience, and something that we look forward to putting together again in the future. We hope all who attended enjoyed their evening, and as always we welcome any and all feedback!

 

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Elk Rut Happening Now!

The elk rut peaks mid-September to mid-October. A Wisconsin resident recently caught an amazing video of bull elk getting rowdy in preparation, which you can see if you visit this link.ElkVideoScreenshot

Our trail camera hosts in the elk reintroduction areas – Black River Falls, Clam Lake and Flambeau River State Forest – have been checking their cameras and uploading photos.  We rely on these camera checks to gather data on how the elk are doing in Wisconsin and to get great photos to share!

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Bugle Days participants

Bugle Days is an annual tradition held in Clam Lake Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  Snapshot Wisconsin was invited to participate this year in order to share some info about our elk monitoring project, recognize current volunteers, and recruit some new volunteers.

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Elk Monitoring Volunteers!

Bugle Days presented a great opportunity to see some of our volunteers who we haven’t seen since training, and also to get out in the field during the day and check some cameras.  We ended each evening with a slide show of Snapshot Wisconsin images accompanied by a campfire.

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Snapshot Wisconsin Slide Show

We are currently looking for more trail camera hosts in each elk range area.  These cameras are set up on public land so all volunteers need to participate is transportation to the camera areas, a handheld GPS device, and a healthy sense of adventure!  To find out more information about the elk monitoring opportunity send an email to DNRSnapshotWisconsin@Wisconsin.gov with the subject line “Elk Monitoring”.

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Trail to one of the Clam Lake elk cameras

 

Snapshot Wisconsin in the Prairie

Last week we traveled to western Iowa County to help lead a Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin field trip showcasing one of our very first camera sites.  Most Snapshot Wisconsin cameras are located in wooded areas, but this one is in a restored prairie/wetland. Over the last year this site has captured some incredible photos of birds, including spotted sand piper, sand hill cranes and great blue heron.  We were thrilled that the landowner was willing to host and help lead the field trip, and it was a wonderful treat to spend the afternoon outside in such beautiful surroundings.

According to the landowner, the property was used for conventional agricultural up until 8 years ago when he began converting it to prairie.  There is also a trout stream running through the property which has benefited from funding and restoration work by Trout Unlimited.

We were fortunate to have Darcy Kind along to help lead the trip. Darcy works for WDNR as a Conservation Biologist for the Landowner Incentive Program, which helps private landowners create and manage habitat for rare or declining species. Darcy has extensive knowledge of native plants and worked with this landowner on restoration projects throughout the 240 acre property.

Prescribed fire has played a key role in clearing brush and encouraging the growth of native plants on the property.  Most of the native plant species we saw were not planted, but emerged from the existing seed bank that remained in the soil through decades of agriculture!  During the trip we saw rare Hill’s thistle, four species of milkweed, Goat’s rue, lead plant, and many more native forbs and grasses. We also saw red and white oaks thriving in a restored oak savanna, and red headed woodpeckers which nest in at least two places on the property.

Thanks to Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin for providing the opportunity for us to share this beautiful property and promote Snapshot Wisconsin!  Anyone who lives in or near Wisconsin should check out their upcoming field trips.

We hope to lead this trip or a similar trip next year. Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive this announcement and other updates from Snapshot Wisconsin.

A Busy May

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!

 

Citizen science event in St. Paul, Friday May 19

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!

Out and About with Snapshot Wisconsin

The Snapshot Wisconsin team was in Milwaukee the last few days attending the Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

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Susan Frett, Christina Locke, Christine Anhalt-Depies and John Clare pose for a group selfie!

This event was a great opportunity to learn about research being done throughout Wisconsin as well as other parts of the world.  We attended talks about new methods to estimate deer recruitment in Wisconsin; carnivore detection and abundance in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; climbing behavior of Gray Fox; and the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network just to name a few.  We are hoping to be able to have some guest posts on the blog about other camera trap research projects in the future.

John gave a presentation entitled “Validation of crowd-sourced trail camera image classifications” which had some great information about classification accuracy of Zooniverse volunteers as compared to expert classifications.  Christina’s presentation was “Snapshot Wisconsin: Updates from our first year of volunteer-based wildlife monitoring with trail cameras”.  Susan focused on the elk monitoring project with a presentation called “Using Cameras and Volunteers to Monitor Elk Reintroduction in Wisconsin”.

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Susan’s Elk Monitoring Presentation

The conference was also a great opportunity to socialize with colleagues from other parts of Wisconsin and see a bit of downtown Milwaukee.

Getting artsy with Snapshot Wisconsin

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.

Valerie Mangion at the opening of “Night Vision” in July. Photo: Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences.

Valerie Mangion at the opening of “Night Vision” in July. Photo: Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences.

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!

It is totally normal to bring a tree to an art gallery to demonstrate trail camera usage, right? Photo: Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences.

It is totally normal to bring a tree stump to an art gallery to demonstrate trail camera setup, right? Photo: Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences.

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!

Sunrise Doe
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.
© gardenmaeve

Do you have a poem to share, inspired by nature or a particular Snapshot Wisconsin image? Share it in the poetry thread!

Deer at sunrise