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March 2019 Science Update

One of Snapshot Wisconsin’s major goals is to alleviate some of the burden associated with time-consuming in-person survey techniques. This is possible because trail cameras can serve as round-the-clock observers in all weather conditions. Annual Greater Prairie-Chicken lekking (breeding) surveys were identified as having good potential to be supplemented by Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, and a pilot study was conducted in spring 2018.

Male Greater Prairie-Chicken

Male Greater Prairie-Chicken at a lek in Wisconsin

The Greater Prairie-Chicken (GPC) is a large grouse species native to grassland regions of central Wisconsin. During the breeding season each spring, males compete for female attention by creating a booming noise and displaying on patches of land known as leks, as seen in the photo above. Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Management staff identify leks in the early spring and return to each site twice in the season to count the number of booming males. The number of males present on the leks is used as an index to population size. Three Snapshot Wisconsin cameras were deployed on each of five leks – one camera facing each direction except for east to reduce the number of photos triggered by the rising sun. The cameras were deployed from late March through mid-May, and all in-person surveying was conducted within the same period.

Comparison of maximun number of male GPC

As seen in the graph above, Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras recorded male GPC at each of the five leks. This is significant because GPC were only detected on three of the five leks according to the in-person surveys. On leks A, B, and D, where both in-person and camera surveying detected GPC, the in-person maximum of male GPC was higher. However, when the trail camera maximum is averaged across all survey days, the maximum is nearly the same for both survey methods (8.5 in-person, 8.3 trail camera).

Number of male greater prairie chicken photos captured

In-person surveying requires the observers to arrive before dawn and remain in the blind until after the early morning booming has finished. Snapshot Wisconsin cameras record the hourly activity on the lek while minimizing the risk of disturbance due to human presence. The graph above displays the total number of male GPC photos captured by hour and shows a small uptick in photos around 7 p.m. Because the in-person surveys do not include evening observations, Snapshot Wisconsin data offer a way to examine the lek activity at all hours. Additionally, continuous data collection is not only useful in capturing the activity of GPC but offers insight into the dynamics of Wisconsin’s grassland ecosystems. In total, Snapshot Wisconsin cameras collected over 3,000 animal images including badger, coyote, deer, other birds, and more.

March 2019 Volunteer of the Month

March’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Melanie and the Trees For Tomorrow staff in Vilas County! Trees For Tomorrow (TFT) is a nonprofit natural resources specialty school in Eagle River, WI whose mission is to promote sustainable management of our natural resources through transformative educational experiences. TFT’s field-based programs place students in direct contact with nature, providing the knowledge and skills to prepare today’s youth to be tomorrow’s stewards of our natural world. Founded in 1944, Trees For Tomorrow is proud to be celebrating 75 years of conservation education in Wisconsin. Melanie and TFT have been hosting a Snapshot Wisconsin camera since July of 2017.

Melanie, the Environmental Science Educator for TFT, shared, “Participating in Snapshot Wisconsin has allowed us to learn more about the wildlife that lives at Trees For Tomorrow as well as engage our students and guests in exciting, hands-on learning!” Trees For Tomorrow keeps their visitors updated on what critters are making appearances at the property on their phenology board, which you can see below. Additionally, their education team created a trail camera class where students can learn about cameras, how to scout for good sites, and analyze trail camera data to investigate life histories of local species.

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

Birds caught on camera

Snapshot Wisconsin Display at the Trees For Tomorrow Facility

Trail Camera Host Announcements: Resources Available

As winter slowly turns towards spring across Wisconsin, we know a lot of our volunteers will be venturing out to check their cameras, or perhaps deploying them for the first time. If it has been a while since your last camera check, or since you did training, you may feel like you need a refresher. Our training videos are available under the Resources tab in your MySnapshot account. They are in convenient sections, so you can just watch the video that applies to your task for the day. As always, if you need assistance, feel free to reach out to us via phone or email.

We have been working on automating our reminder system for camera deployments and checks. It still has a few bugs we are working out – if you get a reminder even though you did a camera check recently, please let us know. Please keep in mind that a “Check Camera” event needs to be entered in your MySnapshot account (located under the Camera tab) before you upload your photos.

Coyote, Marinette County

Coyote, Marinette County, October 2017

Zooniverse Announcements

Season 12 launched recently of Snapshot Wisconsin on Zooniverse [exit DNR]. Login and help us classify our newest batch of photos; there is a great variety of wildlife this season. What might you find? Bears, wolves, elk, grouse and more to keep you entertained during the long winter season!

Bear family

Bear Family, Sawyer County, June 2017

Recently on the Blog

We have been sharing fun photos and articles on our blog; check the links below and remember to follow the Snapshot Wisconsin blog.

Take me to the Limit [exit DNR]: A blog about what factors limit species ranges, contributed by Neil Gilbert.
WCBM at 15 [exit DNR]: Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network Turns 15

Opossum, Trempealeau county

Opossum, Trempealeau County, January 2017

Team Profile: Neil Gilbert

Neil Gilbert

New Team Member: Neil Gilbert

Neil Gilbert joined the project in September, 2018, as a PhD student in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at UW-Madison. He has Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Spanish from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Alabama. He will be using data generated from Snapshot Wisconsin for his dissertation and will be working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to develop models to estimate wildlife abundance from the Snapshot Wisconsin cameras.

A data scientist in the making, Neil is currently learning the ropes of navigating and managing the massive files produced by Snapshot Wisconsin. When he’s not busy with school, he enjoys reading, running, birding, and cooking. His current dreams involve learning to homebrew and traveling to Colombia to look for birds.

Welcome to the team Neil!

2019 Progress Toward Goal Update

Each month through 2019, we will be sharing our progress toward our goal of achieving 25 percent 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 are counties where we have not yet met our goal. In the last month we added a few cameras in several counties, but still have a long way to go in Chippewa, Buffalo, Winnebago, Calumet and Menominee Counties.

We have been working on getting in touch with local groups and contacts in our high-priority areas. We typically reach out to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress delegates in each county, the County Conservationist and other county employees, local DNR staff, libraries, all the municipal clerks, educators, and any conservation groups we can find. If any of our volunteers or partners receiving this newsletter have good ideas on local groups or contacts to reach out to, please send us an email to with the details and we will follow up. Thank you!

Goal status by county

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

Photo of the Month

Otter's sliding in the snow

Caption: Otter Slide Gif

The Snapshot Wisconsin Photo of the Month highlights favorite photos shared by our volunteers, or occasionally Snapshot staff. 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 is a fun GIF of otter slides put together by Emily Buege on the Snapshot team.

Thank you to 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