Camera traps as a tool to increase public participation in biodiversity monitoring
USGS Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
UMass Dep. Environmental Conservation
It is challenging to devise adequate monitoring protocols for estimating wildlife population size and distribution. Camera traps have become a well-established approach to surveying mammals with little human disturbance; last year >1,000 papers cited the use of ‘camera traps’ in scientific research. In addition, cameras have become more affordable because of common purchase by the general public, which in turn makes them a potential vehicle to promote public participation in scientific research (citizen science). Because scientific camera trap studies are often limited by the number of cameras deployed, coordinated public participation has the potential to dramatically increase spatial coverage, resolution, and overall monitoring efforts, and could lead to a better understanding of landscape scale biodiversity patterns and trends. I plan to review current citizen-science-focused camera trap initiatives and identify common themes, challenges, and recommendations for future citizen science efforts. I also will summarize data from a survey of camera trap use by Massachusetts’s hunters to demonstrate that hunters represent a large camera trapping community with significant potential for landscape level wildlife monitoring. Finally, I will develop a proposal for a much wider survey of non-hunting communities to understand how to increase public engagement in citizen science camera trap initiatives. By identifying common themes, successes, and challenges of current citizen science camera trap projects, identifying the variety of camera trapping communities, and considering how best to engage these communities in participation in scientific research, I plan to provide recommendations for future citizen science camera trap initiatives.