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!)
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.
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.
The end of September is a beautiful time to travel around Wisconsin. This fall we have had a lot of opportunity to get out and enjoy the fall colors as we travel around doing in person trainings across the state. Taylor and I traveled up to Crandon and Merrill for a few days for trainings and gave a talk about Snapshot to the Lincoln County Sports Club. We were fortunate to have Friday afternoon off so we took the opportunity to check out Council Grounds State Park just outside Merrill. We had a lovely walk along the lake shore and as usual found ourselves checking out animal sign along the way. We found bear sign but didn’t see any bears. We did see some late season harebell flowers, lots of fly mushrooms, a white throated sparrow and possibly a migrating magnolia warbler.
Whenever we travel we like to take the opportunity to try the locally owned restaurants. We were fortunate to have a really good Mexican restaurant, Los Mezcales right next door to our hotel in Merrill. We have been keeping a journal of our travels since we started the project back in 2016. It is fun to look back and remember our adventures over the past 2 plus years.
On Saturday, we left Merrill to head to Black River Falls where we met up with Joe to lead a Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Field Trip out to a couple of our elk monitoring cameras. The fall colors around Black River Falls were even prettier than they were farther to the north. About a dozen attendees met us at the Black River Falls WDNR office parking lot for a preview of our trip and a brief introduction to the elk reintroduction and monitoring programs. There are about 200 or so cameras around the Jackson County Forest specifically for monitoring the elk herd that was reintroduced to the area in 2015. These cameras are all maintained by volunteers with the Snapshot Wisconsin Elk Monitoring project.
After our discussion about the elk we drove about 20 minutes outside of town to reach the camera locations. A short hike into the woods brought us to our first camera location. Taylor showed the attendees how to perform a camera check, which includes recording the date and time of the camera check, the number of photos recorded on the SD card in the camera and changing out the SD card and batteries. We took another hike to a camera nearby and one of the field trip attendees took over doing the camera check. One of the other attendees found some wolf sign in the area, and the camera did have a wolf proximity sensor associated with it. We will have to wait and see if any wolf pictures show up at this camera site.
We plan to host this field trip for NRFW again next year. Folks local to the Wisconsin area should check out the field trips offered by NRFW every year. Many are led by DNR employees or employees and volunteers of other conservation groups across the state. They are a great way to learn more about conservation and get an inside look at what is going on in Wisconsin. Curious to learn more about elk? Check out this page on the WDNR website: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/elk.html To signup to participate in the Snapshot Wisconsin elk monitoring project send an email to DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov with the subject line “Elk Monitoring”.
Stewart Lake County park outside Mount Horeb was the setting for our first volunteer recognition event of 2018. It was fun to see some of our volunteers again who we haven’t seen since training or who we might never have met in person at all. We had about 60 people turn out for a lovely evening. Jen and Taylor gave a presentation that included some of our science updates from the last year of the project. Sarah got the privilege of handing out the recognition certificates to the volunteers. I was able to share some of the changes we have planned for Phase 2 of the project, including much needed improvements to our IT system. We had been planning on cooking the food ourselves but at the last minute decided we had enough on our plate without that and opted for catering. Some of our volunteers brought dishes to pass and the Snapshot crew brought some desserts. Thanks to all for contributing to a successful event!
Unfortunately, we had to cancel our 2nd event planned for September 20th at Lake Wazee due to forecasted severe weather. We are looking for alternate dates (and an inside location!) for later this fall/early winter. We will let folks know when it is rescheduled.
We are looking forward to transitioning to more of these types of events in future as we transition more fully to online training and don’t have to travel so much for in person training. All of our trail camera hosts who have participated for at least a year receive an invitation to our recognition events. Getting close to your one year anniversary? Keep an eye on your mail for a letter from us and a special gift!
October’s Volunteer of the Month is
Thomas from Marinette County!
Thomas has been a trail camera host since June 2017. Thomas is also an activate participant on Snapshot Wisconsin’s crowdsourcing platform, www.SnapshotWisconsin.org, where you may recognize his handle of @Swamp-eye. His username comes from the position of his camera overlooking the swamp on his property, the same piece of land where he was born and raised.
Thomas enjoys hunting, fishing, woodcarving and volunteering with Snapshot Wisconsin in his free time. He shared, “I have always been interested in the flora and fauna of this great county. I learned my hunting skills from my dad and my love of nature from my mom.” One of our favorite quotes from Thomas is, “you couldn’t find a better hobby” – we think we couldn’t find better volunteers!
Thank you, Thomas! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
September’s Volunteer of the Month is
Mary from Bayfield County!
Mary has spent the past four decades sharing her love for science as a mom, scientist, educator and most recently as a volunteer.
In addition to hosting her own Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera, Mary has been an invaluable resource helping the Snapshot Wisconsin team put together a series of lesson plans for the project. She stated that her passion has always been in “designing and implementing hands-on tools that make learning science easy and fun for people of all ages.” Mary also works with local organizations and classrooms to continue getting students engaged with and excited about Wisconsin wildlife.
Check out the current Snapshot Wisconsin lesson plans on the newly redesigned website. Lesson plans are available for all ages, and as Mary shared, “The pictures from Snapshot Wisconsin inject excitement into the Wisconsin Science and Math standards. They transform abstract concepts into local experiences.”
Thank you, Mary! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.