Smithsonian scientist gives global context to local camera-trap project
As I’ve mentioned in several of the posts I’ve written since last October, I’m working this academic year with Dr. Nina Huff, Research Instructor at the Piedmont Governor's School for Mathematics, Science &Technology's New College Institute site (PGSMSTNCI), and some of her students (juniors in high school). Together, we are studying local wildlife (mostly mammals) in Martinsville and Henry County, Virginia.
We are using a relatively new method (cameras traps) to “capture” the animals using digital photographs. We have photographs from 3 locations in Martinsville, and we’ve already seen some interesting patterns in the data. The students are still compiling and analyzing the results, so I don’t want to give away any details right now. But, in the near future, I’ll post photos of some of the more unusual animals we’ve “captured.”
I’m new to the world of camera traps, so as part of this project, I wanted the students to hear from another scientist who regularly uses camera traps to study mammals. I contacted several colleagues, and, luckily for me and the students, Dr. William J. (Bill) McShea was available and willing to talk to the class about his research.
Bill is a leader in the field of conservation of forest-dwelling mammals, and camera traps are an important tool in his research program. He has worked all over the world, and he is based in Front Royal, Virginia at the Conservation Ecology Center in the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute of the National Zoological Park. Luckily for all of us, because the PGSMSTNCI has state-of-the-art technology, Bill didn’t have to make the 200-mile (one way) drive to Martinsville to meet the students.
We were able to connect to Bill’s office in Front Royal via 2-way teleconferencing software. He presented a PowerPoint slide show about his camera-trap work, and then Bill answered the student’s questions about his research. He reported results from his recent studies of Giant Pandas in China, and he also talked about two recent studies of mammals in the mid-Atlantic states, including Virginia. His presentation touched on and synthesized many of the activities we’ve completed for the camera-trap project here in Martinsville. It also gave the students lots of real-world examples and context for our project.
The students, Nina, and I owe a big “Thanks” to Bill for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us and to share his world-class research with us. And we all owe a big “Thanks” to Jason Mabry, the IT Specialist at PGSMST, for setting up the remote connection that made it all possible.