Wednesday, March 27, 2013

eMammal Camera Deployment Training for BRFALers

On snowy Sunday, March 24th about a dozen BRFAL Chapter members along with eight others met in Roanoke to receive our eMammal camera deployment training.  

Just what is eMammal Camera Deployment training and why would a passel of otherwise intelligent people risk life and limb to attend this training? 

BRFAL Chapter Members training for eMammal Project in the snow in Roanoke
One BRFAL dude training the week prior, NOT IN THE SNOW (Rick in brown hat front center) "Here is the picture of the first volunteer cohort of 2013 from the training at the Wintergreen Nature Foundation." Photo courtesy of eMammal
Well eMammal is a citizen science project sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural Sciences.  It concerns one of the fundamental questions of ecology concerning the distributions of organisms (in the case mammals) throughout our environment.  Technology is now making this somewhat easy with the advent of field cameras that can be placed in the field and be set to automatically get photographic evidence of the movement of various species day and night.

In order to help the scientists from the Smithsonian with this task a 4+ hour training session was held.  We learned how to set up and use our GPS’s so that we can both find and record the actual locations for placing the field cameras. 

We then learned how to use and place the cameras in the field.  Each camera uses 12 NiMH rechargeable batteries and an SD memory card.  Once the camera is secured to a tree at the correct height with a “Python cable lock”, it then must be calibrated with a “walk test” to determine the maximum distance the camera will record movement and then the “pole test” in which a calibrated pole is moved in a zigzag pattern away from the camera while being photographed.  This allows the size of the animals to be estimated when the field pictures are taken.  We actually went outside in the pouring snow to practice our newly learned skills.

The final portion of our training included how to use the eMammal website to upload the hundreds of pictures that we anticipate getting when we actually deploy the cameras.  This was perhaps the most daunting part of the training.

Now, the next step will be the actual deployment of the cameras.  Most of the cameras will be deployed in Carvins Cove by our group, although some will be at the George Washington Forest above Peaks of Otter.  Each “team” will be responsible to deploy 3 field cameras at specified locations.  One camera will be right on the trail, the second 50 meters off the trail and the third will be 200 meters off the trail.  This will allow the scientists to evaluate what effect human interaction from the trail has on mammal distribution though the forest.

So in a nutshell, I hope that explains why we Master Naturalists were willing and excited to spend our snowy Sunday doing training.  As the project proceeds, I will try to give you some updates.  Many thanks to our Smithsonian Trainers, Tavis Forrester and Megan Baker.
Happy trainees for the eMammal project

A complete camera set up

Our trainer Tavis Forrester
Stay tuned to this blog for updates on this project,
Rich Brager

More About
A Citizen Science Camera Trapping Project (click here for eMammal Facebook page)

eMammal is a project where citizen scientists work in collaboration with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to document mammals throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and soon, the entire country. Citizen volunteers place "camera traps", infrared activated cameras, across the landscape in parks and other natural areas to collect photos of mammals. These photos help researchers answer questions about mammal distribution and abundance and use this information for conservation.

General Information
To get an idea of different projects that have used camera traps for conservation and see examples of camera trap photos, click here! (We're pretty certain we won't capture any images of Rhinos, but who knows, this is Wild Virginia!)

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