By surveying mammal biodiversity in and around school yards using camera traps, students will discover how mammals have adapted to and are living in human-modified landscapes. Preliminary research shows that developed areas can be good habitat for mammals. Students will assess habitats around their schools and analyze data on mammalian activity patterns, use of different habitats, and seasonal effects, including school-use patterns, on mammals.
For full information on how to participate in eMammal, favorite photos, and lesson plans, visit our eMammal website.
To test out your animal identification skills, try our eMammal Lite game (no camera trap required) at eMammal Lite.
Camera Trap Setup
Gather the supplies needed- Please be aware that you can borrow these supplies from the Museum of Natural Science. You can purchase on your own but it can be expensive. Photo by Lea Shell.
Find a tree- The tree choice is important because you do not want to put the camera in an area where you may capture people. Photo by Lea Shell. Keep the following in mind as well: 1) knee height, slightly downward angle 2) clear of vegetation within ~2 meters of camera 3) not on slopes 4) pointing away from sunrise/sunset 5) good detection distance
Prepare the camera to be secured to the tree- Slide the locking cord through the back of the camera. Pay attention to camera orientation to ensure that you secure it to the tree right side up. Photo by Lea Shell.
Secure the camera to the tree- Secure the camera to the tree at knee height. Be sure to lock the cord and take the key. You may need to use sticks to level the camera or adjust for slopes. Photo by Lea Shell.
Conduct a walktest to determine the distance of detection- Select walktest on the camera menu. Close the camera and walk in a zigzag pattern looking for a red flash on the camera. When you no longer cause the light to flash, you are out of range. Go back to the last place of detection and measure the number of meters away from the camera. Photo by Lea Shell.
Arm the camera- Open the camera and select “arm the camera”. Be sure to stand in front of the camera before leaving so that the pictures will begin with a photo of you- the camera trapper. (note: This can be super fun for students!). Photo by Lea Shell.
Leave the camera alone for 3 weeks. Photo by Lea Shell.
About the Research
Teachers and eMammal scientist set up camera trap in forest patch on the edge of a middle school. When people think of development, they automatically think of bad things for wildlife - the cutting of trees and loss of habitat for animals. But increasingly, we are hearing stories in the news or having personal experiences of our own of close-up encounters with animals as large as deer and coyotes in these human-dominated landscapes. Backyards, golf courses, and cemeteries have been shown to have a diversity of wildlife, and in fact, some artificial features such as sprinklers, landscaping, and fresh cut grass may even attract wildlife. One habitat, that no one is looking at is schools. Schools frequently have large outdoor spaces, some of which are left natural or are even augmented to be outdoor classrooms. We think that schools might foster important patches of habitat beneficial to wildlife. Photo by Lea Shell.
Expert Review Tool used for double-checking volunteer species identifications. After participants run camera traps on their school grounds, they identify the animals in the photos, and send them to us. We review every photo to ensure that it is correctly identified for quality scientific data.
White-tailed deer fawn captured on camera near a middle school in Raleigh, North Carolina. These photos are not only beautiful, but also used as data. Every time we see a species in an area, we count it. This correlates to an abundance of the species and we can use these numbers to compare animals in different areas. When we have a large number of camera traps across an area, we can understand where a species is located as well as where they aren’t. We can relate these detections to environmental factors such as habitat or tree cover or human factors such as housing density or the number of roads.
Young coyote captured on camera near middle school in Alamance county, North Carolina. One species in North Carolina we are really interested in are coyotes. Coyotes have moved in from the midwest to the east and have only been in the state for about 30 years. In the Raleigh area, which is a central focus of our research, we use eMammal camera trap images to find out where coyotes live and what types of habitats they use. With eMammal camera traps run at schools, we have found some of our most urban coyotes.
This black bear was found on a Saturday morning outside of a middle school near Asheville, North Carolina. We also want to find out if animals adjust their activity patterns according to the school schedule or day. Schools have a very strict schedule, where there is a lot of activity from the morning until the afternoon, but then are empty from the evening and on weekends and breaks. Using camera trap photos from schools we can see if animals adapt to busy school days. If animals are avoiding people, we would expect them to be detected more after school ends and on weekends and during breaks.
Dr. Roland Kays
Dr. Stephanie Schuttler
Project Kenan Fellows
Past Kenan Fellows
- Denise Humphries
- Jordan Hohm
- Cathy Belair