The use of technology and citizen science to study wildlife communities

Within this research line, I involve non-professionals in the monitoring of wildlife communities, and use these data to answer community ecological questions. At the moment, these projects all involve the use of camera traps, cameras with a passive-infrared sensor that take pictures when they detect a moving difference in temperature (mostly a warm-blooded animal). By involving non-professionals, I hope to bring people in contact with nature and give them a unique experience, shaping their perceptions towards nature and science. I collaborate with social scientists to study these potential effects.

The number of people using camera traps to study wildlife is increasing tremendously. Since my PhD, I have been involved in the development of camera trapping methods, from the simplification of the estimation of the effective detection distance of camera traps, to the development of a framework for detection of animals by camera traps.

Below, you can find some information on several of the ongoing projects within this research line.

Scandcam

Scandcam is a collaboration between SLU and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (www.nina.no). The aim of the project is to further develop methodology to study mammal communities using camera traps. We do this by utilising data from a camera trapping grid that was deployed to study lynx family groups in Southern Norway and by deploying camera traps to study specific questions.

One ongoing study explores which factors determine the probability that a lynx is using specific parts of the landscape and how that influences the probability that a lynx is caught on camera. Hopefully, this will give us a better understanding of the factors that determine detection of animals by camera traps. We do this by using GPS track data of lynx from the same area in combination with different landscape variables.

Collared lynx in Southern Norway caught by a camera trap. Copyright: NINA

In the end, we hope to use the information gained from the Scandcam project for the set-up of a camera-trapping network in Norway and Sweden to monitor the changing mammal communities.

Beyond moose

Beyond moose studies interactions between different ungulate species in multi-species communities. I am mainly involved in using camera traps to study these interactions. We do this in two study sites, one in Northern Sweden and one in the middle of Sweden. Four species of deer occur in both sites: fallow deer, red deer, roe deer and moose. We are interested in how these species use the landscape and if this differs in parts of the landscape where only part of the species are present. My main interest is in using camera trap data to study the spatial and temporal patterns in activity of the different species.

I am in charge of part of the data-collection, data management and analyses of the camera trapping data in the Northern Swedish site. We have been trapping in this site for more than a year now and are looking into effects of phenology, food availability and hunting on ungulate activity. Here we also have a combination of GPS and camera trap data, which can be used to look at patterns on different spatial and temporal scales.

Collared moose as part of the Beyond Moose project. Copyright: SLU

Meet your wild neighbours

In meet your wild neighbours, we invite all inhabitants of Umeå municipality in northern Sweden to borrow a camera trap for a month and put it up in their surroundings. In this way, we hope to get a better understanding of how urbanisation shapes mammal communities at this high latitude. This project is a collaboration with dr Roland Kays at North Carolina Museum for Natural Science and NC State University and follows the same protocol as the NC Candid Critters project.

Setting up a camera trap on a property on the edge of the city of Umeå. Copyright: Susanna Bergström – SLU

ARCS – Arenas for collaboration through citizen science

ARCS develops a citizen science platform in Sweden and I am responsible for the data quality and standardisation work package. As this project is fully focussed on citizen science and not on wildlife or ecology, it takes me somewhat out of my comfort zone. As such, I am learning a lot from my collaborators at Göteborg University, Umeå University and Vetenskap & Allmänhet (Science & Public). See www.citizenscience.se for more info.