It didn't take long of being settled in Victoria before being shipped back up to the Cariboo for a long week of fieldwork! I recently returned from a 9-day field session on a crew of four people from the ACME lab, where we spent 7 days deploying an array of 50 cameras in the Prince George area as part of a moose study. It was exciting to be out on my first deployment and start really learning camera trap study design. This study is being conducted by a PhD student in the lab, Nicole Boucher. Her current research focuses on declining moose populations in BC's interior, examining moose calf survival in relation to landscape change (ex: forestry activities), predation risk and maternal effects. I was excited to be joining the team to help deploy the cameras and support Nicole's fieldwork.
After hinting about it regularly on this blog, it’s due time to finally get into the details about camera trapping. So, what is camera trapping? How do you use them to study wildlife? Camera traps are simply wildlife cameras that we are using to study wildlife. They can provide large scale data on animal distribution, occupancy, behaviours, and densities. Interpretation and analysis of these photos collected over time helps researchers to answer some of the biggest questions in conservation and ecology today. Our lab is part of a large network of camera trappers, WildCam. I highly recommend checking out their website for more information: About Us (wildcams.ca).
Now onto the nitty gritty of this field work and how to actually deploy an array! I've uploaded a photo-series with captions so be sure to click on each of the below photos. I also want to acknowledge that deploying the array is certainly not the first step in setting up a project like this. There is a lot of design that goes into determining the number of cameras required and the location of each camera. We headed out in teams of two with maps of the study area showing the general location of each planned camera deployment, and the rest is in the photos:
This trip was extremely valuable to me: not just because I had such a great time getting to know a handful of my lab-mates, but because I received such exceptional mentorship and teachings about camera trap study designs. It was also really engaging for me on this trip getting to work with folks who don't have much forestry experience. As an RPF, an important part of my mandate is to serve the public and educate about forestry. I was able to work one on one with each member of the team during the trip, and conversations often led to both challenging and exciting forest management topics. It was a great opportunity for me to share the breadth and depth of my BC Interior forestry experience and education, and the difficult questions from my colleagues have given me a lot to think about and research as both a professional and in regards to my own personal moral compass. This is the beauty of open communication and stepping out of your field to new experiences - in my opinion, it can only yield positive results for the betterment of forest practices and public engagement/awareness. I'd like to wrap up by acknowledging and thanking Nicole for having me on her field crew and Laura and MacGregor for all their guidance and mentorship during the deployment.
A few other updates of note:
I have received the first batch of data for my project from the GRRB and have been just thrilled looking through some of the pictures the array has captured since it's deployment in 2018. I'm looking forward to sharing more about my project here in the very near future.
I have finally received the "green light" to begin formally planning my field work in the Northwest Territories this summer. Fingers crossed that the COVID-19 situation continues to improve and we will face no other roadblocks in our planning, but as of right now it's looking like I'll be up North for most of August!
Island life and exploring here has been great. Since coming back from PG I have spent quite a bit of time touring around South Island, checking out all the best beaches and places to eat. I'm thinking a few more '"adventure" blogs will be coming throughout the summer and fall on some of my favourite hikes, beaches, swimming holes, and local eats/brews.
Some new camera gear has been recently added to the arsenal so stay tuned for even more photography content coming to the website soon.
It is once again a time of great blessings and opportunities being here on the Island and experiencing everything I can while being a grad student. As always, thanks for reading. If you have questions, be sure to drop them in the comments or contact me directly. Finally, enjoy a handful more photos below from the PG trip.