Large-scale mammal monitoring: the potential of a citizen science camera-trapping project in the UK

Pen-Yuan Hsing, Russell A. Hill, Graham C. Smith, Steven Bradley, Sian E. Green, Vivien T. Kent, Samantha S. Mason, Jonathan Rees, Mark J. Whittingham, Jim Cokill, MammalWeb citizen scientists, Philip A. Stephens

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Abstract

In light of global biodiversity loss, there is an increasing need for large-scale wildlife monitoring. This is difficult for mammals, since they can be elusive and nocturnal. In the United Kingdom, there is a lack of systematic, widespread mammal monitoring, and a recognized deficiency of data. Innovative new approaches are required.
We developed MammalWeb, a portal to enable UK-wide camera trapping by a network of citizen scientists and partner organizations. MammalWeb citizen scientists contribute to both the collection and classification of camera trap data. Following trials in 2013–2017, MammalWeb has grown organically to increase its geographic reach (e.g. ∼2000 sites in Britain). It has so far provided the equivalent of over 340 camera trap-years of wild mammal monitoring, and produced nearly 440,000 classified image sequences and videos, of which, over 180,000 are mammal detections.
We describe MammalWeb, its background, its development and the novel approaches we have for participation. We consider the data collected by MammalWeb participants, especially in light of their relevance to the main goals of wildlife monitoring: to provide spatial data, abundance data and temporal behavioural data.
MammalWeb can complement existing approaches to mammal monitoring. Explicit accounting for spatial and temporal patterns in animal activity enables accounting of bias relative to ad hoc observational data. Estimating abundance presents challenges, as for many camera-trapping studies, but we discuss the potential of the data as they stand, and opportunities to advance their value for abundance estimation.
Challenges remain to MammalWeb's central missions of enhancing engagement with and connection to nature, and delivering policy-relevant data on Britain's wild mammals. We discuss these challenges and the opportunities they provide for advances in respect of engagement, science and financial security.
Our approach reduces administrative burden and increases spatial coverage and, as such, MammalWeb provides a useful addition to existing case studies of citizen science camera-trapping program design. We believe MammalWeb is an important step towards fulfilling calls for UK-wide mammal monitoring and our description of challenges identifies an agenda for fulfilling that purpose.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12180
JournalEcological Solutions and Evidence
Volume3
Issue number4
Early online date11 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the United Kingdom Heritage Lottery Fund (OH-14-06474, OM-21-00458, RH-16-09501), the British Ecological Society, the Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account, Durham University (TESS – ESLE2012, 030-15/16, and a Doctoral Scholarship), the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/R008485/1 and two IAPETUS PhD studentships to Samantha S. Mason and Sian E. Green, NE/L002590/1), the European Food Safety Authority (OC/EFSA/ALPHA/2016/01–01, OC/EFSA/AMU/2018/02), an HMP & YOI Deerbolt Operational Innovation Award and the Royal Society (PG∖S2∖192047). We gratefully acknowledge the Durham Wildlife Trust, the teachers and students at Belmont Community School and other schools and other partner organizations for their support.

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