By Susan Frett, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Snapshot Wisconsin is a new program from Wisconsin DNR, University of Wisconsin and UW-Extension to more fully monitor wildlife populations with the help of volunteers and crowd-sourcing. Volunteers in Wisconsin with access to private land can sign up to host trail cameras to capture images of wildlife going about their normal routines. Anyone in the world with access to the internet can help out by going online to Zooniverse to view the photos and classify them according to the type of animal and what activity they are doing. All types of wildlife are being captured with the trail cameras including deer, elk, bears, fox, bobcats, badgers and more.
The goal of Snapshot Wisconsin is two-fold: increase citizen engagement with natural resources and improve and expand wildlife monitoring efforts across species type and across the state. Currently, wildlife monitoring efforts are limited by weather (e.g., snow tracks needed for otter and wolf monitoring), expense and geography. Some traditional methods for wildlife monitoring, like baiting or trapping, can be invasive. Trail cameras avoid a lot of these issues since they are relatively inexpensive, can be out in all types of weather and are able to cover the entire state. The data captured will be used to make better informed wildlife management decisions in the future.
Enrollment for trail camera hosts is open statewide for educators and tribal affiliates on tribal land, while general enrollment for volunteers on private land is open in Iowa and Sawyer counties. Four additional counties will follow by the end of this year, with the rest of Wisconsin to enroll over the next few years. When it is fully rolled out across Wisconsin, Snapshot Wisconsin will be the largest citizen science project in the state.
Those who are interested in hosting a camera on private land in other counties are encouraged to apply and they will be notified when enrollment opens in that county. The only requirements are that the volunteer has access to at least 10 acres of contiguous private land, and agrees to maintain a trail camera on that land for at least one year. Training and supplies will be provided, and no prior experience with trail cameras is necessary.
Season 1 of Snapshot Wisconsin on Zooniverse launched in mid-May. The season lasted 14 days with 8,534 volunteers classifying 288,877 photos. Season 1 photos were from cameras that were setup in 2015 to monitor the elk herds near Clam Lake and Black River Falls. Although these are called elk-monitoring cameras, all types of Wisconsin wildlife appear in the photos. The size of Season 1 is a good indicator of why crowdsourcing is important–the small Snapshot Wisconsin team could never classify that many photos! In order to ensure that results are high-quality from our crowdsourced data each photo is classified by multiple volunteers. Those photos that have a high amount of disagreement between the classifications are flagged for review by the researchers. Season 2 of Snapshot Wisconsin started recently, so signup for a Zooniverse account and start classifying photos today!
Visit the Snapshot Wisconsin webpage for complete details and to sign up for the Snapshot Wisconsin e-newsletter.