Equipment (Part 1 of ?)
The countdown is on! I (Rachel) am leaving to head up to Haines, Alaska, in less than a week! As part of my pre-trip preparations, I've been getting our equipment assembled.
A large part of our research project involves the use of noninvasive motion-detecting trail cameras to census wildlife populations. We set these cameras up on trees, or sometimes fence posts or t-posts, and program them to take an image of anything that might wander by, day or night. This allows us to see what species of wildlife are around, and the frequency each species might use a specific area. For example, cameras set near popular hiking trails see a lot of human activity during the day-- bikers, hikers, horseback riders, and people walking their pets. During nighttime, however, the same trails are often used by wildlife species. Check out some of the photos Yiwei's trail cameras have captured of wildlife around the Santa Cruz Mountains!
Each trail camera set-up has several parts, pictured here. The main body of the camera, housed in brown plastic, has a motion sensor and infrared flash. The camera itself sits in a protective steel casing, which will (hopefully) prevent curious bears from destroying it. The entire unit is secured to a tree or other object with a nylon strap, and is protected from theft by a strong cable lock.
The cameras we use are Bushnell Trophy Cam. These cameras are digital, take AA batteries, and use SD cards. They are easy to set up and use, and pictures can be downloaded directly to a personal computer. For those of you that live in rural areas, or who live in areas bordering open space, like fields or forests, you can purchase and use your own trail camera right in your own backyard! The camera units, sans bear-proof steel housing, run around $200 a piece, and with lithium batteries and a large SD card can be left in the field for months at a time (of course, you can always check them more frequently if you want). If you're curious to see what types of wildlife live around your home, consider setting up your own trail camera!
This week I inventoried all of our trail cameras for our upcoming Alaska predator project. All of our cameras are numbered, and since theft and curious passers-by are always a possibility, even in remote areas, we add contact information to each unit. Here are the cameras, locks, and SD cards, all set and ready to go!