Why monitor mammals?
Mammals can be very elusive. Often coming out at night, and not in great numbers, it is hard to monitor their populations, where they are distributed, and how they behave. However, knowing these things is very important not only for conservation, but also for knowing how to develop our natural landscape sustainably.
What is camera trapping?
One way to keep track of wild mammals is the use of motion-sensing "camera traps" (they don't actually catch the animals!), which detect and photograph any animal moving in front of them. Camera traps are great because they are relatively easy to set up, and cause less stress to animals compared to the traditional method of capturing and tagging them. If done well, we will not only learn about what and how many animals there are, but also the timing of important events such as when they reproduce. These battery powered camera traps can be left in the wild taking pictures for months, so you don't need to constantly check on them. However, when we deploy many camera traps across a large area, regularly downloading images from them and identifying the animals captured in thousands of photos can become a big operation!
Where citizen scientists (you!) come in
Since there are thousands of photos, we need the help of volunteers like you to identify the animals in them. This is a type of "crowdsourcing" that has been demonstrated to work on websites like Zooniverse. What makes Mammal Web different, however, is that we would like to take this a step further, and let you set up your own camera traps, and upload the pictures you get with them! The Spotter page lets you identify animals in photos, and the Trapper page allows you to sign up your own camera traps and start uploading.
MammalWeb was created in a collaboration between the Durham Wildlife Trust and a team of scientists at Durham University. We hope to improve the state of mammal monitoring in the UK, and to engage the public in this endeavour.