July update on the divii project

As lambing season wraps up in the mountains this time of year, and the little ones begin their steepest battle of survival in the coming months, I'm reflecting on my work to date, and where I'll be challenged next too. The last divii project update I posted here was back in January, so I reckon it's time to let you know what I've been up to since then. I should also note, I'm (semi-reluctantly) trying to be more consistent posting updates on Twitter, so check out #TheDiviiProject or follow me @sydney_goward for the latest updates, highlight photos, and more.


Tagging

  • I have completed tagging over 150,000 of the total 500,000 photos

  • The Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board (GRRB) and I are currently exploring the option of training a GRRB summer student (a Gwich'in youth) to get involved with the project and help with the tagging. Training summer students on tagging is a great way to improve the GRRB's capacity to maintain the camera traps into the future.

  • With our photos, I have trialed using an artificial intelligence software developed by Microsoft called MegaDetector. MegaDetector basically looks at each individual photo, and classifies it into four categories: human, animal, vehicle, and empty, and gives a confidence threshold for it's decision. It has so far shown remarkable accuracy for our photos. By filtering out the empty photos (meaning I don't have to look at them manually), I suspect my tagging speed will increase by about 30-50%. Huge thank you and shoutout to Dan Morris for his support in this effort and running the detection model for our project! Check out these awesome examples of the performance:


Data Exploration

I have started to organize and manage the data I have tagged, using R Studio statistical software. I am not a strong statistician or computer coder, so this has been a challenge but I am receiving a lot of support from my lab mates, making the huge learning curve much less intimidating.


Aerial Surveying

Every three to five years, a comprehensive aerial survey is conducted in of all 12 Dall's sheep survey/management blocks in the Northern Richardson Mountains. For reference, the divii project is being conducted in just one of those blocks. These surveys are completed in partnership with the Yukon Government, ENR (Environment and Natural Resources department of the Northwest Territories Government), and the GRRB. The last one was in 2017, and 2022 marked another survey year! The 2022 surveys were successfully wrapped up on June 28th. These surveys are not part of the GRRB divii community-based monitoring program, but I am exploring using this year's data in my research with the divii project. During this year's survey, two of the divii project cameras were serviced that could not be accessed during the March 2022 servicing trip. The photos from those cameras should be arriving in my mail box in the near future and I can't wait to get my hands on them! Due to some personal issues that prevented me from travelling in June (long story short, my rental in Victoria sold and I had to move), I wasn't able to participate in this survey, but the GRRB has given me permission to post a few highlight photos. Credit and thanks to Steve Andersen for sharing these incredible pictures!


Fieldwork Planning (Fall 2022)

I am currently planning my next trip to the Gwich'in Settlement Area (GSA) for this fall. I am tentatively looking at 2-3 weeks from mid September to early October. It's going to be a packed agenda, but I couldn't be more excited to be gearing up for this meaningful trip. Here's a little peak into what I'm working on scheduling in:

  • Present research update in person at the GRRB Fall Meeting

  • Present research updates in person at the Renewable Resource Council meetings

  • Host a community open-house in Aklavik for the divii project. The purpose is to share updates to community members directly, and create space for feedback and information sharing. I'll be creating information posters and take-home pamphlets. We will also be providing a meal, tea, and door prizes for attendees. I hope to invite GRRB staff, RRCs, the Divii Traditional Knowledge Project coordinator, and the territorial wildlife veterinarian to join in as well. It's so important for researchers to maintain transparency in their work, to give back to community, and to build relationships with the people on who's territory you are working. For these reasons and more, I am thrilled to be planning this open house!

  • Connect with youth in the schools. I am planning on visiting several schools (ranging from K-12 in Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson, and Tsiigehtchic) to give age-tailored, interactive sessions on divii and all things wildlife science. I will be bringing in wildlife cameras, divii horns, divii hides, prizes, etc. to engage youth, not only in the divii project, but also wildlife and science in general. I am working on arranging an elder to join in these visits for some complementary story-telling. This work is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Indigenous Student Ambassador Award and is being conducted with the intention of fostering reciprocity in community. As a non-Gwich'in outsider to community, it is important to me to give back to community as I am gaining so much from learning from the people, land, and animals here. Giving to youth in this way, that is outside the scope of my direct research, is an honour and something I'm really looking forward to!

  • I may also be able to join in on some of the interviews being conducted as part of the Divii Traditional Knowledge Study. This project is separate but complimentary to my research, and is the work of the Gwich'in Tribal Council Department of Culture and Heritage.

Well, that pretty much sums up my recent work on the divii project. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below or reach out through social media or email. Thanks for checking in!


Until next time,


Syd


PS. Please enjoy some of the highlight photos I've recently tagged below!


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