Monday, 18 December 2017

Citizen scientists help capture wild mammals on camera

December 12, 2017

Data collected by enthusiastic volunteers can be extremely useful for researchers, particularly when studying Britain's little understood mammals. At the 'Ecology Across Borders' conference in Ghent, Belgium this week, researchers will share their experience of working with members of the public to create a network of motion-sensing camera traps for wildlife monitoring.

From red foxes, roe deer and badgers to rabbits and grey squirrels, the team has amassed over 160,000 volunteer-captured wildlife images to date, providing valuable information on the diversity and distribution of mammals, many of which are nocturnal.

Mammal Web is a citizen science platform led by Durham Wildlife Trust and ecologists from Durham University, and supported by the British Ecological Society, which was launched in northeast England in 2015 and has since had photo contributions from volunteers in Scotland, Sussex and Oxfordshire.

Citizens even provided data leading to the capture of a non-native invasive species in Sunderland and that helped inform plans for a Local Nature Reserve in County Durham. Informing and influencing local conservation policies is a key part of this large-scale study.
Project co-leader Pen-Yuan Hsing from Durham University says: "Mammals can be very elusive. They often come out at night and in small numbers, which makes it hard to monitor their populations. There are only so many ecologists in the field and they cannot afford to sit in one spot until an animal passes by. Citizen scientists can make a real contribution and help us fill in some of the gaps."

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