NC Citizen Science Study of Wildlife captures 2.2 million images
You didn’t need a doctorate. contribute to research on the abundance and behavior of wildlife in North Carolina, through a large-scale citizen science project led by researchers at North Carolina State University.
Through the project, called North Carolina Candid Critters, researchers trained 580 volunteers to take pictures of animals with heat-sensitive cameras and then share their photos through a website called eMammal. In one item on the project in the review Citizen science: theory and practice, the researchers reported on the successes and challenges of the effort, which gathered more than 2.2 million photos over three years, and increased the number of verified mammalian records available in the state five-fold.
“The power of this is that you can get large-scale ecological data in a timely manner,” said the study’s corresponding author. Roland kays, associate research professor at NC State. “A lot of people are interested in using citizen science, but there are a lot of questions like: How do you train volunteers? How do you get the data from them? This document was really about how we approached these issues as the project progressed, and what were some of the solutions we found to deal with them.
Through the project, researchers recruited volunteers, including library users, middle school students, teachers, hikers and nature enthusiasts in the 100 counties. They created a personalized online program to train volunteers to place and use the cameras, which they loaned from 63 public libraries. Some volunteers used their own cameras. The project was a collaboration with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, eMammal and NC Cardinal Libraries.
“We are the first citizen science project to loan equipment on this scale,” Kays said.
The volunteers placed cameras at 3,093 locations. In addition to the additional work of the research staff, they were able to obtain photos from a total of 4,295 locations. As they worked with federal and state agencies, nonprofits, and private landowners to obtain permission to place cameras on public and private land, many people placed cameras near their home. Fifty-four percent of the volunteers placed cameras on private property.
“It’s really hard to take samples on private land because it’s hard to get permission,” Kays said. “In this case, people were setting up cameras on their own land because they wanted to see what animals were there. This is a real plus of the citizen science approach.
Of 2.2 million photos taken, 1.4 million were taken by volunteers and the rest by staff. From these photos, they were able to obtain 120,671 wildlife sightings, 45% of which were taken by volunteers. This included 30 different species of mammals and three species of birds.
The researchers rechecked the photos of the volunteers to make sure the cameras were placed correctly and the animals were correctly identified. Researchers rejected less than 1% of camera locations because they were set too low, 3.2% for being set too high, and 4.9% for equipment malfunctions, including cameras destroyed by operators. bear.
“The volunteers might not do everything perfectly the first time around,” Kays said. “The good thing is that through the eMammal system we could check if the camera was configured correctly. We could tell the volunteer, and next time it would be better. We were able to verify the information and give feedback to the volunteers.
They found that the volunteers identified the animals with an accuracy of 69.7 percent. While volunteers tended to correctly identify some species, such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, each time others were more difficult. They identified the North American river otter with an accuracy of only 56%.
Researchers struggled to recruit volunteers, train them, manage photographic equipment, and ensure they got photos where they needed them, including in forests, open lands, and land. developed areas. To help other researchers, they suggested solutions for recruiting volunteers, collecting data, and overcoming other obstacles.
“Data management was a huge challenge, which we tackled using the eMammal system,” Kays said. “Training was an issue we still have to work on. Some people gave up because the training was too complicated.
The photos will be used for several research projects to answer questions about wildlife abundance, breeding and other issues. The data will be made public for other researchers to use.
“The great potential of citizen science is that it can help you collect more data than before, over a larger area faster, and over different areas like on private land,” Kays said. “It also engages and interests the public in science and science around nature and conservation.”
The study, “Candid Critters: Challenges and Solutions in a Large-Scale Citizen Science Camera Trap Project,” was published online Feb. 26 in Citizen science: theory and practice. It was written by Kays with Monica Lasky and Arielle Parsons, Lincoln Larson, Brent Pease, Hailey Boone and Alexandra Mash of NC State; Stephanie Schuttler Ben Norton and Lisa Gatens of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Funding was provided in part by a Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Grant and the North Carolina Wildlife Commission.
Note to editors: The summary follows.
“Candid Critters: Challenges and Solutions in a Large Scale Citizen Science Photo Trap Project.”
Posted online February 26 in Citizen science: theory and practice.
Authors: Monica Lasky, Arielle Parsons, Stephanie Schuttler, Alexandra Mash, Lincoln Larson, Ben Norton, Brent Pease, Hailey Boone, Lisa Gatens and Roland Kays.
DO I: 10.5334 / cstp.343
Abstract: Citizen science projects that use sensors (such as camera traps) to collect data can collect data at scale without compromising the quality of the information. However, project management challenges are increased when data collection is extensive. Here, we provide an overview of our efforts to conduct a large-scale citizen science project using camera traps — Candid Critters from North Carolina. We worked with 63 public libraries to distribute camera traps to volunteers in all 100 counties in North Carolina, United States. Candid Critters hired 580 volunteers to deploy cameras to 4,295 locations on private and public lands, collecting 120,671 wildlife records and 2.2 million photographs. We offer eight key suggestions for overcoming the challenges of study design, volunteer recruitment and management, equipment distribution, outreach, training, and data management. We found that citizen science was an efficient and economical method for collecting large-scale wildlife records, and that the use of sensors allowed inspectable quality and streamlined acquisition. In three years, we collected about five times the number of verified mammalian records than there were previously in North Carolina, and completed the job for less than the typical cost of collecting data with field assistants. The project also produced many positive results for adults and young volunteers. Although citizen science presents many challenges, we hope that sharing our experiences will provide useful information for those hoping to use sensors for citizen science on a large scale.