NASA Helps Wisconsin Monitor Wildlife With 5000 Remote Trail Cameras

The state of Wisconsin is teaming up with NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in a unique project to identify the state’s wildlife populations with the installation of 5,000 strategically placed trail cameras. The “Snapshot Wisconsin” initiative employs remote sensing satellites and a global crowd-sourced database to create what aims to be the “richest and most comprehensive caches of wildlife data for any spot on our planet.”

The project launched on May 17 with the initial installation of 500 cameras in two counties, and will grow rapidly in the coming months. “What Snapshot Wisconsin really adds is a consistent way to monitor all species,” says Project Leader Jennifer Stenglein. “The consistent monitoring will allow for comparisons among wildlife populations and enable us to better track population changes at larger spatial and temporal scales.”

The initiative is being funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and NASA and has a website enabling interested citizens to help identify and classify animals they see during their outdoor adventures. With the Snapshot Wisconsin project a single trail can generate thousands of photos each month.

University of Wisconsin Professor Phil Townsend, one of the leaders of the project, says, “The number of trail cams and the spatial scale we’re working on will make this project unique.” Townsend adds that the project will give researchers the ability to model Wisconsin’s wildlife populations in ways previously unimagined. “This will be dynamic,” Townsend says. “We’ll see how things change from one season to the next.”