Tag Archive | Citizen Science

Expanding Citizen Science Horizons

The following piece was written by OAS Communications Specialist Rachel Fancsali for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link.

If you are interested in branching out as a volunteer scientist, there are plenty of other opportunities to explore. The Snapshot Wisconsin team wanted to highlight some of the other exciting programs that our volunteers and their loved ones may be interested in. After all, volunteer scientists play an important role in more than just wildlife research.

The state of Wisconsin has a long history of volunteer science programs. The DNR has an extensive list of its own volunteer science programs and partner projects, including programs like the Wisconsin Bumble Bee Brigade and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Monitoring Program.

But what about programs outside of Wisconsin? There are plenty of national programs available on a wide variety of topics. If you are looking for something new to dip your toes in, check out these other programs:

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail And Snow Network (CocoRaHS)

  • A community-based volunteer network of weather observers working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities.
  • CocoRaHS data is used by meteorologists, hydrologists, teachers, engineers and organizations such as the National Weather Service and the USDA.
  • Visit the Wisconsin chapter of CocoRaHS.

FrogWatch USA

  • Volunteers report the calls of local frogs and toads heard during evenings from February to August, depending on the area and peak breeding season for local species. The data are then loaded into a public database, similar to Snapshot Wisconsin’s Data Dashboard.
  • Partnered with the Citizen Science Academy (hosted by the Chicago Botanic Garden) and the National Geographic Society, FrogWatch USA data is used to help develop practical strategies for conserving frog and toad species.
  • Visit FrogWatch USA to learn more.

NASA NeMO-Net

  • Map Earth’s oceans in this videogame that trains an artificial intelligence for a NASA supercomputer using FluidCam’s 3D images of the seafloor, the first instrument that can see through waves.
  • Players identify coral reefs, other shallow marine environments and marine animals using 2D satellite and drone images and 3D reconstructions of underwater environments. Player classifications are used to teach the convolutional neural network (CNN) called NeMO-Net and help scientists better understand and protect coral reefs globally.
  • To dive in, visit NASA NeMo-Net.

The Secchi Dip-In

  • Operated by the North American Lake Management Society, this program collects water clarity measurements from rivers, lakes and estuaries to track water quality changes across the continent. Over the past 20 years, the database has accumulated more than 41,000 records on over 7,000 individual waterbodies.
  • Volunteers are taught how to take water clarity measurements primarily using a Secchi disk unless the water body is a river or stream that would require a turbidity tube or black disk. Data is primarily collected in July, but the program does accept data year-round!
  • Visit the Secchi Dip-In project site, then spend a day on the lake.

We certainly appreciate our volunteers at Snapshot Wisconsin, and we know these programs also appreciate their volunteers. Whether you want to expand your citizen science portfolio into finding collection water samples, listening to frog songs or teaching an AI, there are plenty of options. Have fun exploring!

 

July #SuperSnap

This Wisconsin icon from Iowa County is crowned our July #SuperSnap! Badgers don’t show up often on Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, and it is even more rare to capture one in the daytime. Have you ever seen a badger on your trail camera? Or even better, in person?

A badger walking across a green forest floor

A badger captured on a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @WINature for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

June #SuperSnap

It is time to bring back the monthly #SuperSnap ! Check out this series of a bobcat from Trempealeau County. This individual is wonderfully camouflaged with its environment, blending in with last year’s decaying plant matter in this spring photo series. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) have a distinctive mottled fur coat that allows them to disappear from sight in a great variety of landscapes. This characteristic contributes to their impressive adaptability; they are the most widespread wild cat in North America!

  • A bobcat walking through the woods

There were lots of amazing submissions this month. A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant @AUK for this #SuperSnap nomination.

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and sharing your favorites with #SuperSnap – your submission might just be next month’s featured photo! Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Sources:
https://sciencing.com/adaptations-bobcat-8153982.html
https://www.britannica.com/animal/bobcat

The Tick App! ‘Your Tick Expert On-The-Go!’

The following article was written by Bieneke Bron, a post-doctoral researcher for the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector Borne Diseases. 

Do you ever wonder why you are always finding ticks on yourself or around you, but your friends never do? Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison have developed a mobile application that allows users to share their experiences with ticks to help prevent future tick bites.

After an initial 5 minute survey to gather information about a user’s environment, Tick App participants are encouraged to tell researchers about their daily activities and tick encounters (or lack thereof) during peak tick season in the “Daily Log” feature of the app. When you start your logs during the peak tick season, you can get daily reminders, so you remember to check for ticks and tell the researchers about your outdoor activities.

If someone does encounter a tick, the app has a “Report-A-Tick” function where users can share information about where the tick was found, on whom it was found, and what kind of tick they think it is. They also have the ability to send in a photo of the tick to receive an expert opinion (or confirmation) on what tick species it is.

Along with the features mentioned above, the Tick App also provides individuals with information about how to identify different kinds of ticks, good ways to prevent tick exposure, and facts about ticks and the diseases they transmit. The Tick Activity function provides information on the local activity level of blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) throughout the year.

So, ready to help scientists figure out why some people seem to pick up more ticks than others? You can download the mobile application by searching “The Tick App” in both the Google Play or App Store. The Tick App is compatible with a variety of devices and can be joined online through your web-browser too (www.thetickapp.org/ web-app/).

Explore our websites www.thetickapp.org and www.mcevbd.wisc.edu. Questions about the Tick App can be directed to the UW-Madison Research team in the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases through tickapp@wisc.edu or 608-265-4741.

The Tick App

Exploring the Plant Side of Citizen Science

In the state of Wisconsin, we are lucky to have so many people who take interest in our natural resources. From the Snapshot Wisconsin project here at the Department of Natural Resources, to university professors conducting environmental research, to individual Wisconsinites, there’s no shortage of people who care.

Before I started working with the Snapshot Wisconsin team, I was fortunate enough to participate in another research project. The goal of the project was to look more closely at the impact that white-tailed deer have on Wisconsin forests when they browse on (or “eat”) sapling trees. My job was to use the Twig-Age method to help collect data across several forest patches in Southern Wisconsin, as well as to build a website to share this new method of data collection with other volunteers who wanted to participate in the research. 

A maple sapling that has been browsed by a deer.

The Twig-Age method involves looking at a tree sapling, measuring its height, and counting the terminal bud scale scars along two of its branches. Terminal bud scale scars are what’s left behind on the twig when a bud falls off naturally during the growing process. Picture marking a child’s height on the wall each year. The more bud scale scars a twig has, the longer a twig has been able to grow without being browsed by a deer. We took hundreds of data points in order to paint a picture of what sort of browsing impacts deer were having on these forests.

One year of growth pointed out on the twig of a Red Maple sapling.

While I was doing this field work, I found myself surprised by how many different species of trees we have in our forests. Usually when I walk through the woods, I don’t take the time to notice all the different plants around me. I notice the birds and the squirrels, but the plants have always been more of a beautiful backdrop. This research project gave me a stronger appreciation for the diverse vegetation that we have in our forests. I had time to get down at eye-level with these saplings and really look at them. It was like playing the part of a historian by recording the age of their twigs and whether or not a deer had eaten from them before. Each data point collected was a personal interview with a tiny tree.

By the end of the summer we created Our Wisconsin Understory, a citizen science project for monitoring deer impacts. The goal is to collect as much data as possible and to hopefully expand data points across the state. Anyone interested in learning more about the Twig-Age method and collecting data for the project can do so at the Our Wisconsin Understory website.

August #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a pair of wood ducks from Richland County! Their colorful head makes them stand out against the early spring growth in this vernal pool. The wood duck (Aix sponsa) does not have any close relatives in North America (Audubon). This makes it a unique bird that prefers the shaded waters in woodland areas. 

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Thank you Zooniverse volunteers Kjreynolds1957 and Nsykora for nominating these birds. 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.

How It Feels to Discover a Rare Species on Camera

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!”

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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.”

July #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a coyote (Canis latrins) as it approaches a Snapshot Wisconsin camera deployed in Racine County. Snapshot Wisconsin recently surpassed 30 million trail camera images – staff members and volunteers alike are consistently amazed by some of the images coming out of the project. Thank you to Zooniverse volunteers WINature and Swamp-eye for nominating this series!

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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.

June #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a mink from Waupaca county, stepping into ice cold water. Mink are amazing swimmers and divers. Even in the winter, you ask? Yes, thanks to insulation from a thick underfur & oily hair, minks maintain their aquatic lifestyle year round, although less so when it’s cold.

Thanks @Tjper for nominating this sequence!

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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.

Top 10 Reasons to Host a Snapshot Wisconsin Trail Camera

Rumor has it that summer is around the corner, which is the perfect time to sign up for a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera! Do you have access to public land or a private property at least 10 acres in size? A computer with internet? The ability to participate for a least a year? If you answered yes to these questions, congrats – you are already qualified! If you are thinking “But why should I apply?”, here are 10 commonly quoted reasons by our volunteers and project staff:

1. It’s free!

We provide all necessary equipment (including a Bushnell camera), training, technical support and replacements at NO cost! No previous experience is required, we are happy to teach you!

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2. Use your trail camera see up close pictures of wildlife.

Feed your curiosity and learn what is on your property and public lands.

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3. Hosting a trail camera is a great excuse to get out into the woods.

And we’ll remind you to check your camera every three months. That way you’ll head outdoors in all seasons and be on track with the program.

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4. Contribute to wildlife monitoring.

Photos collected through Snapshot Wisconsin are turned into important data used for supporting wildlife management decisions at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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5. Interact with the researchers.

Volunteers interact with the Snapshot Wisconsin research team at various outreach events, both in person and online. We also visit various groups across the state talking about the project and are available for questions on call or email.

6. Be in the know – get regular updates on data collected.

The research team provides regular updates aimed at volunteers – our monthly e-newsletter and blog are chock full of interesting information.

7. Socialize with other volunteers.

Our volunteers meet other citizen science enthusiasts at trainings, outreach and volunteer appreciation events. Discussions at these events can range from how the last hunting season went to secret birding locations, Packer football and so on.

Apart from the events, our Zooniverse forum allows you to interact with more 6500 volunteers from across the globe with the one thing that binds them all – interest in Wisconsin’s charismatic wildlife through the lens of a trail camera.

8. Improve your wildlife identification skills.

We provide a web-interface MySnapshot for volunteers to classify and view their pictures. Our Zooniverse forum is also a way to classify the pictures from across the state.

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 9. Educational outlet for students or nature center visitors.

Hundreds of educators participate in Snapshot Wisconsin. Snapshot Wisconsin is a great avenue to take your class outdoors and to bring the outdoors back into the classroom. Many nature centers also participate in Snapshot Wisconsin and are a great outlet for information on Wisconsin’s wildlife.

10. Provides an opportunity to bridge nature and technology.

Snapshot Wisconsin provides a great opportunity to bridge nature and technology. Trail cameras are non-invasive and providing a wealth of data about the secretive critters of Wisconsin. It’s a great technology for the good, connecting people and nature.

Convinced yet? Signup here: www.SnapshotWISignup.org!
Do you have a few more questions? Contact us at DNRSnapshotWisconsin@Wisconsin.org