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Science Update

In last month’s Science Update, we explored the accumulation of Snapshot Wisconsin photos over time and how the number of photos taken fluctuates with the seasons. To date, our data set contains more than 24 million photos, and their content is a vital component of the Snapshot Wisconsin project.

Chart of the percent of photos by species

The pie chart above indicates that over half of the photos are blank. This can be attributed to the fact that our cameras contain a motion trigger function, which is designed to capture wildlife as it moves through the frame. However, this mechanism only detects movement and cannot differentiate between animals and vegetation. This means that on windy days during the spring green up period, thousands of blank photos can be captured. Occasionally cameras will malfunction and continuously take blank photos without being triggered by motion. This issue was more prevalent with earlier versions of our cameras, the model we currently use does not take as many blank photos. Additionally, over time volunteers have learned that trimming vegetation in front of their camera helps prevent blank photos.

Every day at 10:40AM, the cameras are programmed to record a time lapse photo. This is not only to document the” spring green up” period and the “fall brown down” period, but also to sync ground-level measures of greenness with satellite data. These photos are primarily used by our partners at UW-Madison and compose 7% of our data set.

It is not uncommon for our trail camera hosts to trigger the camera themselves during check events, which is the cause of most of the 3% of photos that are tagged as human. Although these photos are removed from the dataset prior to analysis, they can be helpful in instances where the camera has been recording photos with the wrong date and time. A photo of a hand in front of the camera combined with the date and time reported by the volunteer at each check event are enough for us to adjust the date and time for the whole set of photos.

Twenty percent of the Snapshot Wisconsin photos are untagged, meaning they have yet to be classified as blank, human or animal. Many of these photos will be sent to the crowd sourcing website, Zooniverse [exit DNR], for classification. We hope to implement a program to automatically classify photos to work through this backlog as well.

Pie chart of photos by classification category

Finally, about 14% of Snapshot Wisconsin photos are of confirmed animals. In the graph above, we have broken down which species appear in these photos. Deer are by far the most common species, appearing in about two-thirds of photos, followed by squirrels, raccoons, turkey, cottontail rabbits, coyotes, and elk. The remaining 8 percent of animal tags are divided up across 34 categories. Elk may have a higher proportion of triggers than expected because Snapshot Wisconsin cameras are placed more densely in the elk reintroduction areas than in other areas of the state.



January 2019 Volunteer of the Month

Snapshot volunteer of the month

Clam Lake Area Bull Elk

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! On the right, you’ll see a photo of the first elk that Duanne caught on one of his Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, which is quite an impressive bull!

Thank you, Duanne! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.



Trail Camera Host Announcements

Since our statewide launch in August we have had over 1500 new applications to participate in the project, and we processed more than 500 applicants who had applied previously for counties that weren’t open yet. We have reached out to all these people via email. If you applied prior to December 1st and haven’t heard from us, please check your junk or spam email folder for an email from DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov. We respond to each completed application within a month of receiving it. There are four possible outcomes to an application: a request for more information, a Waiting List notification if the block is occupied, a notification that the application does not meet our criteria (typically for properties that are too small or for volunteers who lack access to the internet) or acceptance. The automated system we are currently using sends a series of three emails letting new applicants know they were accepted and asking their preference for in person or online training. Starting this month, if the applicant does not respond after the third acceptance email, we will deactivate the application and re-open the block for another volunteer to participate.

We highly recommend adding DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov to your contact list upon applying to participate so you won’t miss any of our emails.



Recently on the Blog

Opossum carrying leaves

Opossum carrying leaves

There have been several interesting blog posts over the last month. Check the links below and remember to follow the Snapshot Wisconsin blog.

What to Wear if You’re a Snowshoe Hare [exit DNR]
Season 10 Wrap Up [exit DNR]
Opossums: The Creature You Didn’t Know Were Interesting [exit DNR]



Team Profile: Jamie Bugel

Jamie Bugel

Jamie Bugel

Jamie Bugel joined the project part time in October as a Research Technician. She works with multiple aspects of the project from data collection to volunteer outreach. She enjoys sharing and exploring nature with others. She especially appreciates the large number of Wisconsin parks, forests, and lakes that can be explored in every season. Jamie has a B.S. in Biology from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and recently completed her Master’s in Agroecology at the UW-Madison. Welcome to the project Jamie!



2019 Trail Camera Host Recruitment Goal Update

Last month we shared our goal of achieving at least 25% camera host occupancy in each county. We chose this goal because it is the percentage we need to reach in each county to provide meaningful data for wildlife management decision making. This goal also gives the outreach team guidance for where to focus our recruitment efforts. Interested volunteers in counties that have already met our goal are still being accepted. Each month throughout 2019 we will be sharing our progress towards that goal. 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 towards meeting our goal. The counties shown in shades of brown on the map below are counties where we have not yet met our goal. Since last month we have reached 25% occupancy in Lincoln, Portage and Washington Counties.

Goal status by county

We are still accepting applications statewide, so volunteers in all counties are encouraged to apply at www.SnapshotWISignup.org [exit DNR].



Photo of the Month

Snapshot photo of the month

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 DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov. We will include your first name and county location in the newsletter featuring your submitted photo.

This month's image was submitted by Mike, who recently started hosting a camera in Dodge County. The image shows a handsome white tailed buck whose antlers are framing an owl sitting in a tree behind him. Thank you Mike, 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