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The Snapshot April 2019

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Science Update

The Snapshot Wisconsin team is often asked why we accept data only from our Snapshot-specific cameras. One reason is that Snapshot Wisconsin cameras are programmed to take a single photo at 10:40 a.m. each day. Although 10:40 may seem like an arbitrary time, this corresponds to the approximate time that a NASA satellite flies over Wisconsin and collects aerial imagery. (More information on how NASA data and Snapshot data are complementary can be found in this blog post.)

Timelapse photo to create a natural background

It may be difficult to recognize the value of a blank photo in wildlife research, however, a year-long series of these photos allows us to examine something very important to wildlife: habitat condition. For each camera site, the time-lapse photos are loaded into the statistical software, “R,” where each pixel in the image is analyzed and an overall measure of greenness is summarized for the entire photo. That measure, called the Green Chromatic Coordinate, can be used to identify different “phenophases,” or significant stages in the yearly cycle of a location’s plants and animals. These stages can be delineated on a graph, called a phenoplot, where a fitted curve reveals the transition day-by-day. The 2018 phenoplot for one Snapshot Wisconsin camera site is seen below.

Graph showing greenness of foliage throughout the year
Example photos of different levels of greenness

A picture corresponding to each of the four identified phenophases is shown above.

In 2018, 45 camera sites had a complete set of 365 time-lapse photos, but we expect many more sites to be included in the 2019 analyses. The relatively small sample size for 2018 is due in part to many counties not being opened for applications until partway through the year, but also because time-lapse data are rendered unusable if the date and time are not set properly on the camera. This may happen when the operator accidentally sets the time on the 12-hour clock instead of the 24-hour clock, or if the hardware malfunctions and resets the date and time to manufacturer settings—this is why we ask our volunteers to verify the camera’s date and time settings before leaving the site each time they perform a camera check.

The information derived from these analyses will be integrated into wildlife models. For example, the objective of one ongoing DNR research project is to understand linkages between deer body condition and habitat, which includes what’s available to deer as forest cover and food resources, as well as weather-related factors, such as winter severity or timing of spring greenup. The project currently uses weather data collected across the state to estimate snow depth, temperature, and winter severity, and creates maps based off this information.

Snapshot’s time-lapse cameras offer a wealth of seasonal information regarding type of forest cover and food sources, as well as weather-related information. In the future, phenological data obtained from Snapshot cameras could be used to create “greenup maps” that provide estimates of where and when greenup is occurring, and potentially test that information as a means of better understanding how environmental factors affect deer health, such as whether an early spring greenup improved deer body condition the next fall.

April 2019 Volunteer of the Month

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 surveying wildlife and wanted to use the project to help Madison Audubon members learn about wildlife at the Goose Pond Sanctuary. The project provides them a way to view wildlife responses to habitat restoration on the property, and to see how populations change over time. A few 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.

Various wildlife images provided by Mark and Sue from their Snapshot Wisconsin camera

Images from Mark and Sue’s Snapshot Wisconsin camera

Trail Camera Host Announcements

Spring is finally here, and we hope you are making plans to get out to your camera soon! When you enter a new deployment or check event, it is very important that you enter the time of the event, not the time you are entering the event. The time of the event is used to fix problems that are caused if the date and time the camera stamps on the photos is incorrect. If the date and time of the event entry and photo upload are used instead, the photos may be unusable if there is an error.

Additionally, when classifying photos, please only use the classification “fawn” if there are spots visible. Remember to mark all photos with any portion of a human or vehicle as a “human” photo, whether a human is recognizable or not. If a person and a dog are present in a photo, please classify these as “human” not “domestic dog.” Tagging these photos correctly helps ensure photos with problems are not accidentally sent to Zooniverse. Thank you!

Two fawns playing in the forest

Funny Fawns, Iron County, July 27, 2017

Recently on the Blog

We have been sharing fun photos and articles on our blog; check the link below and remember to follow the Snapshot Wisconsin blog. Take this quiz to find out what Wisconsin animal you are!

What wisconsin animal are you quiz

Snapshot Wisconsin Headlines

Snapshot Wisconsin was featured in a WisContext article [exit DNR] last month.

Bald eagle, Taylor county. October 10, 2017

Bald Eagle, Taylor County, October 10, 2017

2019 Progress Toward Goal Update

Each month through 2019, we will be sharing our progress toward our goal of achieving 25% camera host occupancy in each county. For our purposes here, the definition of camera host occupancy is a camera deployed or sent to the trail camera host. Volunteers who have yet to complete training and receive equipment do not count toward meeting our goal. The counties shown in shades of brown on the map to the right are counties where we have not yet met our goal.

Our spring training schedule kicks off next week in Janesville and Stevens Point. See all the options for in-person training on our webpage. These training options are for accepted Snapshot Wisconsin volunteers.

We are still accepting applications statewide; volunteers in all counties are encouraged to apply at [exit DNR].

Goal Status by county

Photo of the Month

Snapshot photo of the month. Coyote walking on a snow covered trail.

Frosty Coyote – Bayfield County, February 15, 2019

The Snapshot Wisconsin Photo of the Month highlights favorite photos shared by our volunteers. To enter one of your favorites from a Snapshot Wisconsin camera, please send the image as a .jpeg attachment with the animal classification, county location, the date it was taken and the reason you love the image to: We will include your first name and county location in the newsletter featuring your submitted photo.

This month's image of a coyote in the deep snow was submitted by David in Bayfield County, and was taken February 15. David had this to say in his submission: “I was impressed with the clarity of the picture (you can see frost on its whiskers!) and the late afternoon lighting which brings out the beautiful colors of the scene.” We agree this is a fantastic frosty scene! Hopefully a lot of that snow is melted by now!

Thank you, David, and all our dedicated trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers. We couldn’t do this without you!

You can view and classify other interesting photos from our cameras on our Zooniverse page [exit DNR].

Last revised: Monday May 06 2019