Smile! You’re On Canid Camera
ESF researcher seeks citizen scientists to help ID photos from trail cameras
Posted February 2018
If you enjoy looking at pictures of animals online, Canid Camera, a project by an ESF researcher, provides the opportunity to do that while helping improve and create habitat.
Canid Camera is a project by a post-doctoral associate, Dr. Amanda Cheeseman, a mammalogist and conservation biologist, that engages citizen scientists in identifying the animals captured on trail cameras and, in turn, could help determine the future of young forests.
"We're using trail cameras to get an idea of wildlife diversity in different types of forests, particularly young forests," said Cheeseman.
"Young forest" is the stage between an old field and a typical mature forest. "It's characterized by young and old shrubs, saplings and very dense understory," said Cheeseman. More than 100 species rely on young forests in the northeastern region of the United States but those forests are becoming increasingly rare and fragmented because of human influences. The result is a decline of many animal species.
"There's lots of wildlife and plant diversity (in young forests). They're really vibrant places. Great places for bird watching, great places for animal watching," said Cheeseman. "Those spaces have declined and with them a number of species that rely on them such as bobcats and New England cottontail rabbits."
In response to these declines, efforts to create and improve young forests are underway. However, identifying the best methods to create high-quality young forests has presented challenges to biologists and land managers, she said.
"We know it involves some sort of disturbance," she said. "Historically, young forests were created through events such as fire, blow downs, ice storms or beaver dams." However, wildfires are rare in the Northeast and, Cheeseman said, "We don't have as many beavers and we certainly don't let them create ponds like they used to so we're not getting young forests naturally and we must do that manually."
This is where Canid Camera comes in.
Taking its name from a play on the hidden camera/practical joke reality television show, Canid Camera is "looking at wildlife diversity in mature forests and young forests, and wildlife diversity within different types of managed young forests so we can try to get a better idea of what management techniques are getting the desired outcomes of wildlife diversity," Cheeseman said.
Cheeseman and her team set out numerous camera traps in the Hudson Valley area to get photos of wildlife to determine what areas they're using and not using and relate that information to forest management practices.
"What we ended up with is hundreds of thousands of photos of wildlife and some that aren't of wildlife - like moving grass - but we need to know what's in the photos and that takes a tremendous amount of effort," she said.
To help with the identification process, Cheeseman works with a web portal called Zooniverse, the world's largest citizen science web platform for people-powered research. "We thought it would be a great opportunity to engage the public in science, to publicize young forests and share the diversity within young forests with the public."
"We need the public's help," she said. "Anyone can get involved. All they need is interest and an internet connection."
Cheeseman had a team of ESF undergraduates working with her to start the project: Allison Becker, Reilly Carlson, Melissa Phillips and Jenna Holakovsky. All are students in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology.
"I had four excellent young women who wrote most of the material on the Zooniverse and participated in providing feedback, getting the site up and running and testing the links. The whole project could not have been done without them," she said.
Cheeseman will continue to have students participate in tagging the wildlife photos, managing the social media for the project, writing newsletters and tweets, and creating other support materials to engage the public.
If a participant has a problem identifying an animal - for example telling the difference between a coyote and a gray fox - there are descriptions of the species available. And if it's still a difficult identification, Cheeseman said people should "give their best guess."
"We have a lot of different users look at each photo so we take into account all of the answers and use that to determine what is in each photo," she said. "We also have biologists tag photos as experts so we can use that as a guideline to determine how accurate the photos tagged by citizens are."
Once the photos are identified, Cheeseman and her team will look at the wildlife diversity in the different types of forest: Which species are found in mature forests, which are found in young forests? Next - within those young forests, how does the type of management affect the species populations?
"Did the young forest grow up from an old field or was it made through canopy thinning by wildlife biologists and foresters and what degree of canopy thinning did they do?" Cheeseman asked. "Did they leave trees on the ground to maybe try to deter overbrowsing by deer in these young forests?"
They'll also look at activity of predator species such as canids (a group that includes wolves, coyotes and foxes) and bobcats to see if these different management techniques lead to different activity by predators, and if that in turn impacts the survival of the New England cottontail, which is a focal species of a lot of this management.
The information will be shared with forest managers to develop best practices for creating young forests.
Canid Camera can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
ESF Students Make their Mark
- Smile! You’re On Canid CameraESF researcher seeks citizen scientists to help ID photos from trail cameras
- Acorns to Action Strives to Help Victims of Natural DisastersESF students focus on providing resources, knowledge to rebuild sustainably
- ESF Student Part of First-Place Team in Hult Prize CompetitionSayje Lasenberry is member of Farm to Flame Energy team
- Zachary Smith's Commencement SpeechEnvironmental studies major was chosen as student speaker
- Senior Accomplishes Goal: ‘Publish in a Journal’Environmental health major co-authors paper about discovery linked to fighting cancer
- ESF Students Participate in SEA Semester ProgramEFB majors set sail in the Atlantic Ocean
- Class of '17 Joins ESF Alumni RanksDegrees and ESF flags in hand, graduates celebrate accomplishments
- Chemistry Student Wins AwardGraduating senior Curtis Wilhelmsen recognized by environmental division of the American Chemical Society
- ESF Announces Commencement Weekend ActivitiesNumerous events celebrate students’ achievements
- ERE Major Builds Lengthy Resume at ESFTight-knit community, real-world experience made college stand out
- ESF Students Win StoryFest CompetitionTop prize is trip to Brazilian Rainforest for storytelling expedition
- Student from Nepal Finds Her Niche at ESFJyotika ‘Nicci’ Shah plans career in water quality
- ESF Education a Family Affair for Schiavone BrothersThree siblings share a major and a graduation date
- ESF Nordic Skier Competes in World University GamesConducts study on perfluorocarbons between races
- Academics, Athletics, Affordability Lure Soccer Captain to ESFHeather Carl makes her mark on campus
- Daily Adventures Mark Trip to South AmericaRosen Fellowship funds experience of a lifetime
- Student from Italy Finds Motivation at ESF"Here I am constantly pushed to do more"
- Walk on the Wild SideFellowship Funds Trip to South Africa
- USA President Focuses on Building RelationshipsBen Taylor leads 'growth year' for student government
- ESF Junior Honored as 'Unsung Hero'Shewa Shwani to receive award at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
- ‘Jet’ Lewis Builds Busy Life as ESF SophomoreCalifornia resident says diverse ideologies made ESF stand out
- Dedication to Environment Brings Student to ESF from Mexico'There is no other place like ESF,' freshman says
- Beer Eases Final Moments for Euthanized InvertebratesGraduate student seeks humane method for ending lives of research subjects
- ERE Major Tackles Wastewater Plan in IcelandFink Fellowship Supports Summer Abroad
- 44 ESF Students Spend Summer as DEC Interns‘Phenomenal’ range of work can help launch careers
- Paper Engineering Boosts Student through Semester AbroadGraduate-level classes and travel highlight trip to Germany
- ESF Alumnus Begins Peace Corps Service Caleb Rudge to spend two years in Paraguay
- Dream Becomes Reality for ESF SeniorRosen Fellowship supports summer internship in Stockholm
- Summer on the FarmFink Fellowship sends ESF junior to work on Thousand Islands farm
- SRC Fellowship Supports Student in Battle against Mosquitoes Chemical compound could help stop spread of disease
- ESF Landscape Architecture Students Receive ASLA HonorsHonor and merit certificates presented
- ESF Student Finalist for Olmsted Scholar AwardKathryn Chesebrough recognized for academic excellence
- ESF Graduate Joins Teach for America Peter LeDuc finds passion for teaching at ESF
- Advice for Graduates: Stay United, 'Enjoy Your Wisdom'Class of 2016 celebrates at Commencement
- Two ESF Students Earn SUNY Chancellor’s AwardFoley, Zubair honored for excellence
- Closed-Loop Art: Woodburner Uses Material at HandSenior donates artwork to Student Showcase Symposium
- Honors Student Works with 'Best Thing Ever': ElephantsTravel takes Yvonne Lim to Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
- ESF Ph.D. Student Selected as Junior Fellow in Korea
- The Cheer Fun of ItESF student leads SU cheer team
- Ph.D. Student Appointed to Federal Advisory PanelYang joins National Coal Council
- ‘Great Experience’ Takes Grad Student to BulgariaMLA student spends summer monitoring primitive horse population
- ESF Senior Wins Fulbright Research AwardGabriel Smith heads to Sweden to study fungi
- ESF Grad Student Awarded Rare Book School ScholarshipProgram delves into history of hand papermaking
- ESF Senior Honored at National STEM ConferenceCSTEP student Danielle Berry wins second place for poster
- Meghan JohnstoneTraveler in Australia, Nature Conservancy Intern
- Michael AmadoriAquaponics Research
- Ryan HenrySU's biggest sports fan.
- Lauren AlteioHarvard Forest Program
- Brookhaven National Laboratory InternsCourtney Buckley, Daniel Larkin, Michael Norman and Beverly Agtuca
- Brendan-Michael Galloway Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship
- Lynne BeattyMarine resources workshop participant
- Kristen AnthonyLandscape Architecture student, and SU competitive skier
- Craig LazzarEssay Contest nets ESF Senior $10,000
- Zachary KingBiotechnology Researcher
- Daniele BakerSUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence Recipient
- Greg BoydESF Senior, biodiesel expert
- Khristopher DodsonPublisher of Envi magazine
- Cara StaffordInvasive Plant Technician, Catalina Island
- Irony SadeBiotechnology Major
- April Karen BaptistePh.D. Candidate, Fulbright scholar, ESF
- Leah Dudziak & Lisa RuggeroTwo ESF Students on SU Dance Team