MammalWeb Newsletter 12/09/2019

Published on September 12th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 12/09/2019

As summer draws to a close and everyone heads back to school or work our wildlife is keeping busy too. The next few months are crucial for many mammal species as they put on extra weight or stash extra food supplies to help them survive colder winter months. Keep an eye out for squirrels or jays stashing acorns or try placing a camera trap near wild fruits such as blackberry bushes or apple trees to see if any animals come foraging! In this month's newsletter we introduce several new projects for you to classify, bring you some information about social media based research with a 'spot the mammal' challenge, and provide some handy hints for wildcat identification.

August 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
4,448 22,608

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

NatureSpy Video Project

As you may have noticed, some changes have been made to the NatureSpy North York Moors project. This is due to the exciting new addition of video footage to the project! This means that the NatureSpy project now consists of two subprojects, one containing photos from the project, and one containing videos. The NatureSpy project regularly produces fantastic wildlife photos, so we are exctied to see what has been captured on video as wellThe process for classifying a video is the same as for photographs, but please note that you will need to watch the full length of the video before you can submit your classification. At the moment, there are only a few videos in the project, but please check back soon as we will be adding more shortly.

This is the first time MammalWeb has hosted video content, and so we will be carefully monitoring the project in order to help us understand how well videos work on the site, and whether they will be suitable for future use on the project. For the time being, we would ask you not to start submitting any of your own camera trap videos (just photos please) until we can build up a better understanding of how the difference between photo and video footage may influence the data.

We hope you enjoy the videos, and if you have any feedback regarding the videos we would love to hear it. Please get in touch via email at info@PROTECTED



MammalWeb on Social Media

At MammalWeb, we are interested in understanding more about how social media could be used to help people engage with our project, and how we could improve our pages. Therefore we are planning on doing some research, and would like to make people aware of this. We will be monitoring our social media pages and anonymised data may be analysed in order to understand how people engage with posts. No individuals, accounts or user names will be identified for research purposes. Examples of the data we are interested in include overall number of likes or shares a post receives. We will not be looking at individual responses. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns about this research. For more information, please contact info@PROTECTED

Overall, we aim to use our social media pages to provide educational materials, relevant news and project updates as well as to encourage discussion and communication between participants. We will be posting on our pages more regularly and hope this research will help us improve our pages and engage with more people! If you are interested in following us on social media we are on Twitter and Facebook with the handle ‘@MammalWeb’.

We have also started a regular 'camera trap quiz' on our facebook and twitter pages, posting a hard-to-identify camera trap image to test your spotting skills! Can you spot the animal in the picture below? Don't worry if you are not on social media, we will reveal the answer and bring you a new challenge in next months newsletter!

New Projects

We would like to welcome two completely new projects to MammalWeb; The River Rother project and the Field Studies Council (FSC) Dale Fort project. The River Rother project is being run by the Don Catchment Rivers Trust and is part of the National Lottery funded ‘Hidden Heritage Secret Streams’ project. This project is using camera traps to monitor the diverse wildlife community living along the banks of the River Rother and is inviting participants to help classify their footage.

The Field Studies Council is an educational charity focussed on improving environmental awareness and understanding, and Dale Fort is a residential field centre run by the FSC. Camera traps are used to monitor biodiversity around the site and this project contains camera trap records from on site and around the grounds of the Dale Fort centre. 

We expect photos to be added to these projects very soon, so if you can't see any yet, please check back again later!

  Species Profiles

Just a quick reminder to vote in our pole, if you haven’t done so already. Please vote by the end of the month to have your say in which mammal gets featured in our first ‘Species Profile’. These profiles will contain species information based on what we have found out from MammalWeb records.

Scottish Wildcat Identification

If you’ve helped out with spotting for the Scottish Wildcat Project at any point, you may have struggled to determine whether you were actually looking at a Scottish wildcat. Hybridisation with domestic cats is very common, and these hybrids can be difficult to distinguish from true Scottish wildcats. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help you to identify the feline.

Firstly, wildcats (and usually hybrids) have distinct tabby markings. If the cat has any other kind of colouring or markings, it is likely a domestic cat. Wildcats are also larger than domestic cats or hybrids.

Wildcats and hybrids can be difficult to tell apart without genetic testing, but there are a few hints hidden in their appearance. Firstly, wildcats have a thick, distinctly ringed tail with a blunt tip, whereas the tail of hybrids tends to have a tapered tip or an intermediate between the two. In addition, the stripe along the spine of wildcats does not continue along the tail, but it might in hybrids. Another difference is that the striped markings on a wildcat’s back are well-defined, so if the stripes appear broken, you may be looking at a hybrid. The presence of white feet also indicates hybridisation.

Again, it can be very difficult to tell from camera trap photos, but if you can identify several of the features above indicating that it is a wildcat, you’re more likely to correctly classify the animal. Please do not worry if you are not 100% sure when classifying, as by giving your best guess you will still help to narrow down the number of potential wildcat images which can then be reviewed by Scottish Wildcat Action. For more information on wildcat identification and research, you can also visit their website:

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 07/08/2019

Published on August 7th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 07/08/2019

If you're looking for something to do with the kids now that school has broken up, then here's a gentle reminder that Dippy the dinosaur is at the Hancock museum in Newcastle until the 06th October! To keep the kids further entertained, do check out the Natural Northumbria exhibit whilst you're there and have a go at spotting on the MammalWeb screens. If you're not able to get to the Hancock museum this summer, then don't worry; there are still lots of photos that need classifying on MammalWeb, which you can do from the comfort of your own home! As well as spotting, if you would like to have a go at trapping but don't have your own camera trap, then we do currently have a number of camera traps available to borrow. See below for more information about that, as well as lots of other updates!

July 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
16,689 25,124

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Website developments

To make it easier to create sites, Helen has created a "wizard" that will guide you through the process of setting up a new site.  The information is the same (although look out for a couple of extra questions about the use of bait and the time during which the camera was active; these aren't compulsory, as you can just accept the defaults) but it should be much easier to enter than previously.  See below for an example of the data entry interface.

We hope this is helpful but, as always, let us know (by email at info@PROTECTED) if you spot a problem or have changes to suggest.

Borrow a camera trap

We currently have a small number of Browning camera traps available to lend out to people for periods of up to one month (although this can be extended upon discussion with us). Borrowing a camera trap is a great option if you are thinking of buying a camera trap, but would like to try one out first. The camera will come ready with batteries, a memory card and a lock for security, and we are happy to offer advice on camera placement and setup. All we ask when we lend cameras out is that you upload your photos to MammalWeb, and you return it to us, either in person or by post, after one month. If you're interested in this opportunity then please email: info@PROTECTED.

Gosforth Park Open Day

We'll be hosting a stall at the upcoming Gosforth Park open day on Saturday 24th August from 10:30 until 3:30. Gosforth Park is a beautiful 1km x 1km wildlife refuge in the north of Newcastle. The reserve is scientifically important for its flora and fauna, with many elusive species found there, including Bittern, Kingfisher, Otter, Coral-root Orchid and Purple Hairstreak Butterfly. The park is managed by the Natural History Society of Northumbria and is usually closed to the public, so this is a great opportunity to come and have a look around and take part in the many different activities that are taking place throughout the day.

More information about the Gosforth Park open day (including instructions on how to find the reserve) can be found here.

Article in The Observer

We're delighted to see the work of one of our long-standing contributors, Roland Ascroft, being recognised in an article in The Observer. Since joining MammalWeb in 2015, Roland has camera trapped extensively in his local woodland, Deerness woods in County Durham. Using a range of camera traps, including some he has specially adapted for capturing small mammals (see here), Roland has captured 19 mammal species and 38 bird species in Deerness! Some examples of the wonderful photos he's captured over the years can be seen below. To read more about Roland's work, the article can be found here.


Species profiles

From October, we would like to feature a number of 'species profiles' in our newsletter and on our News page. The profiles will include some information about a particular species, as inferred from people's trapping records. We'd love to know which species you would like to see featured first, so we've created a poll for you to tell us. Click the link below to cast your vote!

Stoats versus Weasels

Stoats and weasels are very closely related, belonging to the same genus, Mustela. This can make it tricky to tell them apart in camera trap images. Thankfully, there are a few defining features that can be used to distinguish between them.

The most obvious difference in appearance between the two is the black, bushy tip at the end of a stoat’s tail. Comparatively, the tail of a weasel is short, stubby and entirely orange-brown.

However, if the tail isn’t visible, there are other subtle differences that can be used to tell these small mammals apart. Stoats are typically larger than weasels, measuring about 30-40cm, whereas weasels have a whole body length of 20-27cm. In addition, stoats run with bounding movements, characterised by an arched back. Weasels, however, move more quickly with their back flat.

If you happen to spot one of these animals in winter, you may notice that the coat is completely white. Weasels remain orange-brown all year round, so if this is the case, you have definitely spotted a stoat. However, stoats’ fur doesn’t always change colour, in which case you can use the clues above to identify which mustelid you’re looking at.

 Plans to expand work in schools

You may be aware of, or are participating in, one of our current projects working with schools in north east England. Projects we currently have running include the Hancock Museum project and the Schools Impact Study, both of which involve lending camera traps out to schools, who subsequently upload their photos to their own projects. You can view and help classify these photos (as well as read more about each project) from their project pages (links above). Through these projects, we are currently working with over 80 schools across County Durham and beyond and in the past year alone these schools have contributed almost 20,000 photos to MammalWeb! Furthermore, preliminary results from some of the work done by PhD student Sammy as part of the Schools Impact Study shows that participating in MammalWeb has a positive impact on the students involved, both in terms of their knowledge of UK mammals and their connection to nature (look out for further updates on the results of the project in upcoming newsletters!). 

Encouraged and inspired by the work of schools we've been involved with so far, MammalWeb is looking for new ways in which we can expand our work with schools. PhD student Sammy has recently received a small grant from the Royal Society to partner with a Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) centre based at Fyndoune Community College in Sacriston, County Durham. Sammy will be working with students from the centre over the next year, deploying over 20 cameras in different locations across the County. The group will also be making resources for teachers and other students to use and, at the end of the year, some of the camera traps, along with the resources made, will be lent out to other SEND groups throughout the county. Look out for further updates about this project towards the end of this year.

MammalWeb has also recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the British Ecological Society (BES). It is hoped that through this partnership we will be able to assemble the resources required in order to upscale our work in schools to cover a much larger geographical area. We will keep you informed on the progress of this.

In order to showcase the work done in schools so far, and that to come, we are in the process of making a 'schools' page on MammalWeb. The page will have information about purchasing/borrowing a camera trap, how to set the camera trap up (especially in - sometimes limiting - school grounds), resources for teachers (such as activity sheets), curriculum links, and information about past and current projects we have working with schools. If you are a teacher, a parent, or just someone interested in this work, we'd love to hear your thoughts on what you would like to see on this page. Is there anything that would be particularly useful for you? Or, do you have any ideas or examples of mammal/camera-trapping activities that you wouldn't mind sharing with others? Please get in touch with us by emailing: info@PROTECTED.

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 09/07/2019

Published on July 11th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 09/07/2019

We hope everyone has been enjoying some lovely summer weather. We are very grateful to everyone for still finding time to send in and classify so many pictures! If you are looking for inspiration as to where to place your camera trap next, when the weather is hot and dry, placing camera traps near to water sources can produce interesting results! The summer can be a great time for catching young animals as they emerge from their dens to play, and can also be a good time for capturing colour footage of normally nocturnal animals, as the nights are so short animals are forced to forage during daylight hours too. We always love to see what you have been recording so if you capture any particularly good photos please do pass them on to us at info@PROTECTED, or share them with us on social media.

June 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
6,694 20,715

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

MammalWeb sites

Thanks to all your efforts, MammalWeb has really expanded its range out of the North East and across the rest of the UK. This will greatly improve our data set and help us to understand mammals from all different areas. However, we still need more records! If you are going on holiday in the UK this summer, how about taking your camera trap with you? Different parts of the UK have very different wildlife so you never know what you might pick up! Or, how about encouraging friends and family to get involved too? (Particularly those living where there are fewer red dots on the map!)

Ingleborough project

We are delighted to introduce a brand new project to MammalWeb this month. The Ingleborough project, which some of you may have already seen on our website, consists of camera trap data collected from Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. This reserve is one of the famous Three Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales National Parks and is home to some unique and spectacular wildlife and scenery. Natural England is interested in monitoring general biodiversity at this site, but within this project there is an additional sub-project with more specific goals. The Ingleborough Soundscape project is part of a task undertaken by three friends to gain a greater understanding of 'wildness'.

Two areas of the Ingleborough National Reserve have been managed over many years in a way that reduces human interference and stops farm stock grazing. This provides a great opportunity to see what moorland and ancient woodlands can become and what wildlife they can support. The sites will be monitored for birds, vegetation, butterflies/moths and mammals. As Natural England have records going back many years it will be possible to see the effects of the ‘re-wilding’. The project also involves sampling the sounds on the sites to see if a measure of acoustic richness will highlight these wilder areas.

Thank you to anyone who has already submitted classifications to this project. Anyone else who would also like to get involved can follow the 'Classify this Project' link from the project page here.

MammalWeb Summer Events

As you may be aware from previous newsletters, MammalWeb has been collaborating with the Great North Museum: Hancock, where there are now screens displaying camera trap images collected by local schools, which museum visitors can help classify. As part of our work with the museum, some of the MammalWeb team will be supporting the museum outreach team at an event on the 23rd and 24th of July in the Eldon Square shopping centre in Newcastle. The event will run from 11am to 4pm each day and we will be running MammalWeb themed activities and games.  If you are in the area, please drop by and say hello! This event will be in support of the 'Dippy on Tour' campaign to help more people engage with the natural world.

Dippy the Diplodocus will be at the Hancock Museum until the 6th October and, over the summer, various natural history themed events will be held; a schedule of those events can be found here. For those not in the North East, a list of other locations Dippy will be visiting can be found here.

Members of the MammalWeb team will also be present at the Hancock Museum for a 'meet the scientist' event on Thursday the 1st of August and at the WILD exhibition in the Palace Green Library in Durham on Friday the 2nd of August to give a talk at 3pm.

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 11/06/2019

Published on June 11th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 11/06/2019

As summer fast approaches, some MammalWeb trappers have already been lucky enough to capture photos of this year's mammal offspring, such as the lovely fox cub featured in this newsletter. We're always looking for great camera trap photos to share in our newsletter and on social media so if you capture any particularly great photos then please do send them to us by emailing: info@PROTECTED. In this newsletter, we have some website updates for you to be aware of, we introduce a new squirrel monitoring project, and we tell you about some upcoming MammalWeb events.

May 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
19,384 23,199

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Website Updates

We are in the process of making some changes to the way MammalWeb trappers input site information when uploading photos. The first small change that has now been implemented is the way you select the site location. As well as the pre-existing options of entering the site location by moving the red marker on the map, or inputting an OS grid reference, you can now also input the latitude and longitude. There will be more changes to come in the future and we will keep you updated when these occur.

Galloway Squirrel Monitoring

Earlier this year, many of you helped classify photos from the Highland Red Squirrel project. We're excited to announce that we now have a new squirrel monitoring project available on MammalWeb! The Galloway Squirrel Monitoring project has been set up by Roland Ascroft, in association with Gatehouse Squirrel Group and Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels. Camera traps are deployed in Galloway, South-West Scotland. Monitoring of both red and grey squirrel populations is particularly important across Southern Scotland as, in recent years, the number of sites with a grey squirrel presence has significantly increased, suggesting that grey squirrels are continuing to move into what was previously “red only” territory (see article here).

If you would like to help classify camera trap photos from this project then please go the project page here and click "Classify this Project".

Soapbox Science and Gosforth Park Open Day

In the upcoming weeks there will be two events in the North-East where members of the MammalWeb team will be presenting some of the work MammalWeb is currently involved in and showcasing how people can get involved! If you're in the area, then please do come along to hear some of the latest MammalWeb news, as well as to visit all of the other great activities going on.

Soapbox Science - Grey's monument Newcastle, Saturday 15th June, 12:00-3:00 (MammalWeb talk 1:00-2:00)

Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do. They run events all over the country where female scientists are invited to stand on a soapbox in a public place and talk about their research to passing members of the public. At this month's event in Newcastle, MammalWeb PhD student Sammy will be one of the speakers. Come along to hear Sammy talk about why mammal monitoring is so important, how projects like MammalWeb are helping to increase our mammal records, and some of the challenges we face in the future! 

More information about the Soapbox Science event can be found here.

Gosforth Park Open Day - Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, Newcastle, Saturday 22nd June, 10:30-3:30

This is a fantastic opportunity to see this private nature reserve on the edge of Newcastle, which is one of the best wildlife watching sites in the area. There will be lots of stalls and activities on the day including an insect bioblitz, bird ringing and moth trapping. MammalWeb will also have a stall where we'll be letting people have a go at classifying camera trap photos, showing some of the findings and ongoing projects on MammalWeb, and letting people play our new game - MammalWeb Bingo! Come along to find out more!

More information about the Gosforth Park Open Day event (including instructions on how to find the reserve) can be found here.

Thank you to Nadine Mitschunas from South Oxfordshire for sending in this lovely photo of a fox cub visiting her allotment!

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 12/05/2019

Published on May 12th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 12/05/2019

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Easter spotting competition. Almost 28,000 image sequences were classfied last month, which is an astonishing effort! Congratulations to the winners of the competition, all of whom are listed below. This month, we are very excited to announce that the Scottish Wildcat project is now live on MammalWeb. Please read on for more information about this project and how you can get involved! In this newsletter, we also have information about upcoming MammalWeb exhibits at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle and Palace Green Library in Durham.

April 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
10,415 27,751

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Winners of the Easter spotting competition

Many congratulations to the three winners of our Easter spotting competition, namely: Julia Wilkinson from Oxford; Reece Fowler from Middlesborough; and Beth Smith from East Sussex. Courtesy of NatureSpy, our three winners recently received their Browning camera traps and we look forward to seeing the images they capture on them! Thank you to everyone who submitted classifications - your spotting efforts have helped to keep the MammalWeb UK project at almost 100% classified which, as we wrote about in last month's newsletter, is crucial for getting a large and accurate dataset of mammal records.

Scottish Wildcats Project

We're pleased to announce the Scottish Wildcat project is now live on MammalWeb! Dr. Roo Campbell from the Scottish Wildcat Action group writes about the project to date and what you need to know to be involved:

Our “Scottish Wildcats” project is now live and we are hard at work uploading the hundreds of thousands of images we’ve collected over the course of the Scottish Wildcat Action project to date. We are desperate to have your help ‘spotting’ what wildlife are in these images. There will be a lot of cats in there because that’s what we set the cameras up to catch, but there’ll be lots of other wildlife too, with badger, pine marten, fox, buzzards, red sika and roe deer, polecat ferrets, brown and mountain hare, rabbits, wood mice, red squirrel, stoats, weasels and woodcock all featuring on the areas we survey. You might get lucky and spot rarities such as a golden eagle, wild boar or even vagrant birds such as the nominally Siberian White’s thrush.

There are two things you need to be aware of before you launch into spotting. Firstly, one of the chief threats facing the wildcat in Scotland is cross-breeding with domestic cats. Using genetic testing, the project has found so far that under their skin all cats living wild in Scotland show some levels of hybridisation, but there are cats that show lower levels of hybridisation.  Since camera traps do not (as yet!) include a ‘genetic test mode’, the project uses the physical characteristics of the cats to assess whether each is potentially a wildcat. We classify cats into three groups, ‘wildcat’, ‘hybrid’ and ‘domestic’. More information on this can be found on the project website. But basically, a tabby striped cat with a fat blunt-tipped tail and no white feet or patches should be considered as a wildcat. If you can see the dorsal (top) surface of the tail and see clear tail bands with no dorsal line running from the back down the length of the tail then that’s also a good indication the cat could be a wildcat. Secondly, we use bait to attract cats (and inadvertently other species) to the cameras. These usually include a game-bird (quail, partridge or pheasant usually) tied to a post or a tree and/or a pheasant wing hanging from a branch or post. We obviously don’t want you to classify these!

If you own a camera trap and live in an area that could have wildcats, you will also be able to contribute as a trapper.  Please visit the MammalWeb project page for more information. A guide to setting cameras for wildcats is available on the Scottish Wildcat Action website here.

Dippy comes to the Hancock Museum

In March we told you about the Hancock Museum project on MammalWeb. The schools that have been involved in the project have been busy capturing photos on their camera traps and uploading them to MammalWeb. If you haven't done so already, you can view and help classify the photos from this project by going to the Hancock Museum project page. From there, you can choose to classify photos from the overall project, or click on one of the subprojects (either a habitat type or particular school) and classify photos from that subproject.

The iconic Diplodocus cast, 'Dippy', that once stood in the Hintze hall of the Natural History Museum in London, is due to arrive at the Hancock Museum on the 18/05/2019! Dippy will stay at the Hancock Museum until the 06/10/2019. As part of the Dippy exhibition, the photos captured by the schools involved will be uploaded to MammalWeb, and displayed on screens for members of the public to help classify the photos captured. If you would like to visit the museum to see Dippy and the MammalWeb exhibits then we would recommend booking a free ticket in advance, which you can do here.

Durham University WILD exhibition

As well as the exhibits at the Hancock Museum, MammalWeb will also feature as part of Durham University's WILD exhibition. The exhibition will take place between the 18/05/2019 and 06/10/2019 in the Palace Green library in Durham, and is free to visit with no need to book. For more information about the exhibition, see their webpage here.

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 10/04/2019

Published on April 10th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 10/04/2019

For the first time ever this month, the MammalWeb UK project had 100% of it's camera trap photos classified! This is a huge acheivement and we'd like to thank everyone who has helped classify these images. In this newsletter ,we highlight some of the findings from the MammalWeb UK project so far. We'd like to encourage everyone to keep classifying - as the more classifications we can get, the more confident we can be of the species pictured in any image sequence. Also in this newsletter: you can find out how you could win one of three camera traps; we have an update from NatureSpy on their North York Moors project; and we announce a new project coming soon.

March 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
4,542 9,889

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Easter spotting competition

Following the success of our Christmas competition, we are excited to announce that we will soon be running an Easter spotting competition!  Starting today (Wednesday the 10th of April), we will be adding some novelty, Easter-themed pictures into the MammalWeb UK data set.  If you find one, save it to your local device, classify it as “Other” and email it to us at info@PROTECTED.  Everyone who finds one will get an honourable mention when we announce the results.  We are particularly grateful to our friends at NatureSpy, who have very generously donated three Browning Command Ops Pro camera traps as prizes for this competition.  This incredible generosity means that we can offer one of these camera traps as a prize to each of the first three Spotters who send us the novelty Easter photo that they found (up to a limit of one camera per person)!  NatureSpy will also be offering discounts on camera traps to MammalWeb participants.  Check out their shop here, and watch for further news on how to access the discounts soon!

MammalWeb UK hits 100% classified

In March, we reached a major milestone. Specifically, for the first time since the MammalWeb UK project began, we reached a point at which every image sequence submitted to the MammalWeb UK project had been classified at least once! This is a great achievement and we’d like to thank everyone who has contributed classifications, as well as Helen, whose tireless work on the web platform has made Spotting such an effortless (and, we think, addictive) process!

Although MammalWeb UK is now just one of the projects on the site, it remains the project to which most people contribute data. At the point when all sequences had been classified at least once, it included almost 80,000 sequences from over 300 sites. As you can see from the detailed map (in which the MammalWeb UK sites are shown in red, overlying blue sites from other projects), survey efforts remain dominated by sites in the North East of England, where the project began. Zooming out to the UK map, however, you can see that MammalWeb UK is continuing to expand. If you are, or know, a camera trapper elsewhere in the country, please do upload your camera trap photos/encourage others to do so. This way we can continue to expand our coverage, and consequently learn more about mammal ecology across the UK.


At the point at which all image sequences had been classified at least once, the data suggest that about 62% of the sequences contained identifiable animal life. So, what do they contain? As you can see from the graph on the left below, the most frequently sighted animal is the grey squirrel which, as many of you will know, is an invasive non-native species. Nevertheless, there are a number of native species that appear frequently, including roe deer in about 1 in every 12 sequences you view, and badger or red fox in about 1 in 18 sequences. Bear in mind that these statistics are based on what species people have said are in sequences. As we get more classifications per sequence and more conviction regarding what is pictured, this could change.

A more intriguing picture arises when we consider the number of sites at which different species have been photographed (see graph on the right below). This suggests that roe deer and red fox are actually more geographically widespread in our data than are grey squirrels. This probably arises because they are more wide-ranging: when grey squirrels are active around a camera, they are usually very busy, generating lots of image sequences; roe deer and red foxes turn up at more cameras – but don’t linger by the camera for so long.

As contributors are increasingly trapping in other parts of the country, these patterns will almost certainly change. We have recently seen muntjac in the data set from a site in Worcestershire, as well as fallow deer from a site in South Wales. Who knows what other species we might see as the project continues to expand?

NatureSpy's North York Moors Project

We hope you've enjoyed classifying the varied wildlife captured on camera traps from NatureSpy's North York Moors project. Project officer Ed Snell has asked us to share this update with you on how the project is progressing:

The response to NatureSpy’s camera trap images on MammalWeb has been amazing! We’re currently uploading around 2,000 images per month from cameras used in the Yorkshire Pine Marten Support Programme, most of which have been classified within a few weeks. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the keen Spotters of MammalWeb for doing such a great job of ID’ing the species in our photos! We’ve now been uploading images to MammalWeb for almost one year, this is a great point for us to take a look at our species list so far. Any efforts to identify the remaining sequences on MammalWeb in the coming weeks would be appreciated as it gives us a complete dataset to look at. We’ll report our findings on the NatureSpy website in the near future!

If you’d like to learn more about our pine marten work on the North York Moors, we post compilation videos of species, as well as species spotlight videos on the project webpage, which can be found here. 


Coming soon: Scottish Wildcats

Some of you might have noticed that we have a new project on the project pages, entitled “Scottish Wildcats”.  As many of you know, the Scottish wildcat is one of Britain’s most endangered mammals.  Owing, in particular, to genetic dilution by domestic cats, it is unlikely that the Scottish wildcat population is sustainable now without intensive intervention.  Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) is the umbrella group that has been monitoring the wildcat’s plight, and both developing and delivering plans for the species’ conservation.  Over several winters, they have been organising surveys using baited camera traps to check for wildcat presence in a number of priority areas.  They have amassed a large bank of camera trap images which has been screened for potential wildcats but which, otherwise, has been largely under-exploited for the information it contains.  That information includes insights into the prevalence of domestic cats, and information about the ecological context in the different areas (including the presence of competitors and prey).

Over coming months, SWA will be uploading images from their six priority regions in Scotland to MammalWeb, in the hope that Spotters will help them to classify what’s in the pictures.  They have already put up about 1400 sequences from a small number of camera deployments, so you will be able to see the types of species attracted to their bait.  The early signs are that this is likely to be a great project for spotting predators!  Have a look, and watch this space for plenty more images.  If you own a camera trap and live in an area that could have wildcats, you will also be able to contribute to these surveys.  More details to follow.

MammalWeb article in 'The Conversation'

Sian, a PhD student working on MammalWeb, has recently written an article for 'The Conversation'. The article outlines why mammal monitoring is important and how MammalWeb is helping to build a better understanding of UK mammals through camera trapping. The article also highlights some of the findings from numerous projects on MammalWeb so far. To read the article click here.

Safe travels to Pen

Many of our long-standing contributors will know Pen, who was heavily-involved in MammalWeb’s transition from a campus-based trial to a public-facing project.  You might also know that Pen recently successfully defended his PhD thesis on “Monitoring the UK’s wild mammals: A new grammar for citizen science engagement and ecology”.  Pen has just returned to Taiwan, prior to starting a job in the USA.  He will be missed by the whole team and many more who were motivated by his infectious enthusiasm.  We will be keeping in touch, however, and this is not the end of Pen’s involvement with MammalWeb!  In the meantime, we wish him safe travels and every success in his new job.

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 12/03/2019

Published on March 12th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 12/03/2019

This month we have two new exciting projects to tell you about! Each project involves working with 50 schools across the North-East; consequently, over the course of the next year we will hopefully have camera traps out at up to 100 new sites! We're sure the schools are going to capture some great images over the next year, and we hope that all our spotters enjoying classifying the photos from these projects. Read on to find out more about each project and how you can view and classify the photos from them.

February 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
3,032 4,362

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Website modifications

Over the past month we have been continuing with some essential IT upgrades. At times, this maintenance has meant that the site has been running slowly, so we thank you for your patience. We're hoping that further updates, as well as actions now taken to hide data from web crawlers will improve the performance and speed of the site. This month we have also switched to HTTPS. This means that communication between your browser and our website is encrypted. Another change to the website is the addition of the "Classify This Project" button on our Projects page. This means that you can directly go to spotting images from any particular project from their project page (see further, below).

More modifications are due soon, both to make it easier to classify the images on the website and to see what we are finding. Watch this space!

Hancock Museum Project

The iconic Diplodocus cast, 'Dippy', that once stood in the Hintze hall of the Natural History Museum in London, is currently on tour! Dippy has already visited Dorset, Birmingham and Belfast, and is set to visit the Hancock Museum in Newcastle from the 18/05/2019 to the 06/10/2019. You can read more about 'Dippy on tour' here and book tickets to visit Dippy at the Hancock museum here. As well as educating the general public about extinct wildlife, Dippy on tour also aims to educate and to engage people with extant wildlife. As such, we've been working with the Hancock museum on a project where 50 schools across Newcastle, County Durham and Northumberland have been given a camera trap to see what wildlife is in and around their school grounds. The schools involved are in a range of different habitats including upland, lowland, coastal, woodland and urban, and so we hope they will capture some interesting and varied wildlife! The photos captured by the schools will be uploaded to MammalWeb and displayed on screens as part of the exhibition when Dippy arrives at the Hancock museum. There will be an area for each of the five habitats listed previously and members of the public will be invited to help classify the photos captured.

A number of the schools involved have already started to upload their camera trap photos to MammalWeb. As you can see below, they've already captured a variety of species on their camera traps, with red fox currently the most commonly pictured. As a spotter, you can view and help classify these photos. To do this, go to our Projects page and click "More" under the Hancock Museum project. From there you will be able to see how many photos have been uploaded and classified, as well as which species have been classified. If you scroll down you can see the five different habitats where the schools are located, and each school that is involved in the project. You can classify from one particular school, one of the habitats, or the whole Hancock project by clicking the new "Classify This Project" button (circled in red below) which will appear on any projects description. Schools will be continuing to upload to their projects over the coming months and we hope you'll enjoy seeing what the schools have captured. 

We hope that this project will provide a model for engaging children with the biodiversity immediately around them. The approach will also help us towards our goal of providing ever-greater coverage of the country, in order to see which species occur where, and why.

Schools impact study

In parallel to working with schools as part of the Dippy on tour project, Sammy (a PhD student working on MammalWeb) is currently collaborating with 50+ schools across the North-East, assessing the impact that being involved in the MammalWeb project has on primary school pupils, and their parents and teachers. Sammy is lending camera traps to schools for one month, and delivering either a training session for teachers or a workshop for pupils. She is asking the school pupils, their parents, and their teachers to fill in questionnaires before and after being involved in MammalWeb. The questionnaires will assess an individual's knowledge of UK mammals and connection to nature, amongst other things. By doing this, Sammy hopes to find out if being involved with MammalWeb has a positive impact on the pupils, parents and/or teachers, and what methods of engagement work best. 

Like the schools that are part of the Hancock Museum project, schools will be uploading their camera trap photos to their own projects on MammalWeb. These photos will be available for MammalWeb spotters to help classify. To classify photos from one of the schools involved in the study, or all schools involved in the study, go to our Projects page, and click "More" under the Schools Impact Study. Sammy will be visiting schools throughout this year, so more schools and photos will become available to classify over the next few months. We will also keep you up to date with the results from the study. However, please note that Sammy may not have any results for a while yet! In the meantime, though, here are some of the schools who have already been involved in the study:

NatureSpy North York Moors Project

Many of you will have enjoyed classifying photos from the NatureSpy North York Moors Project over recent months. The officer for the project, Ed Snell, has written a short piece about some of the wildlife they've captured on their camera traps. To read the piece, and watch some videos of the amazing wildlife they've captured, click here. The elusive pine marten has yet to make an appearance, but don't worry: there are still lots of photos to classify, and more on the way - so do keep spotting!

The Mammal Society Conference

The Mammal Society's 65th Spring conference is happening in Glasgow at the end of this month (29/03/2019 to the 31/03/2019). You can buy tickets for the event here. It promises to be a great three days, full of talks and workshops to please all mammal enthusiasts!

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 07/02/2019

Published on February 7th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 07/02/2019

For the first time ever, we are tantalisingly close to having 100% of the images in the MammalWeb UK project classified! Thank you to everyone who has helped classify these photos, I am sure with your enthusiasm and determination we will be up to 100% in no time. There are lots of exciting projects and developments coming up in the next few months, including more website improvements and increasing our work with schools. Read on to find out more!

January 2019

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
4,369 13,286

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Website modifications

We are hoping to roll out some more site improvements soon. This will include a "full screen" option, allowing spotters to enlarge the photograph they are classifying to full screen size. We are also exploring the possibility of the site hosting videos. There are many technical hurdles to get over before we can allow trappers to upload videos, but we hope that in the future this will be possible. We'll keep you updated on our progress.

As ever, if you have any suggestions for improvements to our site then we would love to hear them! Get in touch by emailing info@PROTECTED.

Camera trapping in Deerness woods, County Durham

One of our trappers, Roland, has written a report about his findings from camera trapping in his local woods over the past two years. In the report, he writes about the species that have been captured on his camera traps, which he has put out at 62 different locations in the Deerness woods, County Durham. This includes camera traps that he modified to be used to photograph small mammals, which you can read more about on our Projects page, under the "Small Mammal Camera Trapping" project. We'd like to say thank you to Roland for sharing this great report with us, and providing MammalWeb with many lovely photos, such as the ones below, to classify over the last few years! You can find a link to the report on our News page in the article dated 06-02-2019.


Highland red squirrel project update

Last summer many of you helped classify photos in the Highland Red Squirrel Project. The project focussed on the understanding of, and potential mitigation for, forest operations on red squirrels, and was run by a team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands in collaboration with Forest Enterprise Scotland. With your help, all images in the project were classified, and now the team have had chance to analyse the data, they would like to share with you the results! Go to our News page and click on the link in the article dated 07-02-2019 to read the report.

MammalWeb in schools

MammalWeb is a great tool for encouraging the younger generation to engage with the natural world around them. Therefore, over the past couple of years, members of the MammalWeb team have worked closely with a number of schools across County Durham. If you click here, you can see a video in which, students from Belmont Community School talk about their involvement with the MammalWeb project. Over the next few months, we'll be working with over 50 schools from across the North East on some very exciting projects. We hope to share more information about these projects with you in our next newsletter, but for now please enjoy this snowy squirrel scene, captured on camera trap by the pupils at Dame Allan's Junior school.

How to tell the difference between deer species

There are six species of deer in the UK: roe deer, red deer, fallow deer, Reeve's Muntjac deer, sika deer and chinese water deer. In County Durham, by far the most common deer species we capture on our camera traps is the roe deer. However, as MammalWeb starts to collect images from new camera trap sites across the country, you may come across some different deer species whilst spotting. Telling the difference between deer species can sometimes be tricky, so we've written a News article which should help you to classify deer species correctly. Take a look at our News article dated 06-02-2019, as well as the graphic below to see the differences between deer species.

Do you know the location of an active fox's den?

Athena Films ( are producing a documentary about the natural history of foxes for Channel 5 and are looking to film a fox family at a den this spring. It will follow the moments of fox cub's first emergence to when they become independent. Through the filming we will be telling the stories of individual family members behaviour and characteristics as they grow up. It would be great to hear from anyone who knows of a fox den in a natural looking setting that has been used regularly, and are confident that the den may be used to rear cubs this year. The exact location of the den will not be provided so they can remain undisturbed after filming. The film will be a positive documentary for a family audience fronted by a presenter showing the wonder of foxes by cover aspects of fox behaviour and scientific research.

Please contact philip@PROTECTED if you require any more information.

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


MammalWeb Newsletter 08/01/2019

Published on January 8th 2019

MammalWeb Newsletter 08/01/2019

We hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and would like to wish you all a very happy new year! 2019 is set to be an exciting year for MammalWeb, with lots of new projects, developments and collaborations on the horizon. We'll aim to keep you up to date with what's going on through this newsletter, on our News page, and on Facebook and Twitter. In this newsletter, we announce the winners of our festive competion, and reflect back on what MammalWeb achieved in 2018, through the efforts of its participants.

December 2018

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
1,936 22,009

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

A festive competition

Hopefully, you will have seen that over the Christmas period, we ran a festive competition to give MammalWeb spotters the chance to win a brand new camera trap! We added the three images below to the MammalWeb UK photo bank, and asked peole to email them in if they came accross them whilst spotting. Over the past month, a fantastic 12,000 photo sequences were classified in the MammalWeb UK project, so thank you to everyone who contributed! All three of our festive photos were found, and the winners were: Elliot Tebbs; Clive Moulding; and Justine Thompson. Congratulations to our three winners, a brand new camera trap is on its way to each of you! 

2018 at a glance

2018 was a very successful year for MammalWeb, with more photos uploaded and classified than ever before, nearly 250 new users registered on the site, and we welcomed five new projects on to the MammalWeb platform. We've put together some facts and figures from the past year, so you can see what you have helped to achieve. Thank you for all the effort you put in to contributing to the MammalWeb project, and we look forward to working with you all in 2019!

Thanks to your efforts, we are developing a much better understanding of the strengths and limitations of our data, and of how to analyse them.  As a result, 2019 should see an increase in our focus on data analysis and we look forward to updating you on findings from all projects throughout the year.

MammalWeb on social media

Did you know that MammalWeb has Twitter and Facebook profiles?  If you do too, and if you would like to increase your connectivity with people with similar interests, let us know where to find your Twitter profile by emailing info@PROTECTED, and/or follow our Facebook page.  By using these social media platforms we can begin to build up a community of those interested in documenting the UK’s mammalian wildlife.

Thank you for all your efforts this month, and please don't hesitate to get in touch!


Thanks - and a camera trap giveaway!

Published on December 22nd 2018

Thanks - and a camera trap giveaway!

As we approach the end of 2018, we wanted to send a brief note to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to MammalWeb over the past year! It has been a tremendous year for Mammal monitoring in the north east of England – and increasingly further afield.

At the start of this year, 70 Trappers had deployed cameras at 227 sites, uploading 55,192 sequences, for which 257 Spotters had submitted 92,972 sequence-classifications (representing 40,374 unique sequences, or 73% of the sequences in the system).

As of today, 97 Trappers have now deployed cameras at 430 sites, uploading 122,742 sequences, for which 473 Spotters have submitted 208,229 sequence-classifications (representing 110,139 unique sequences, or 90% of the sequences in the system). This is tremendous growth in our efforts to find out more about where our wild mammals occur, what they do and what affects that. Next year promises to be much bigger!

This year has also seen the publication of our first paper, led by Pen, discussing how we can be confident about what species are pictured in the sequences you trap. This was a collective effort by everyone who has contributed to MammalWeb – so well done to all of you! Another major achievement was Sammy’s rigorous survey of the whole of County Durham. Thanks to everyone who made a huge effort to get so many of the images from that survey classified in such a short space of time! Thanks to you, Sammy was able to present her preliminary results at the recent meeting of the British Ecological Society. You can expect to hear more about that study over the coming year. We have also welcomed two new people – Sian Green and Jonathan Rees – to the MammalWeb team, as well as multiple new collaborating organisations, and you can expect to hear more about their work over coming months.

We look forward to a very exciting 2019. There are some great developments in the pipeline, and you can expect to see some fabulous site improvements very soon …

For now, however, we’d just like to say a big THANK YOU again and to wish you all the best for a very merry Christmas and a happy new year! As a token of our appreciation, there are now 3 sequences on the platform that have been modified in recognition of the season (the picture below is a hint!). If you come across one of those between now and the 12th day of Christmas (specifically, midnight on the 6th of January), you will win a brand new camera trap! If you see one of the modified sequences, please classify it as “Other” and send a copy of the picture to info@PROTECTED. You can download it by right-clicking and choosing “save image” (or similar, depending on your browser). Happy hunting, and have a great holiday!

The MammalWeb team


MammalWeb Newsletter 06/12/2018

Published on December 6th 2018

MammalWeb Newsletter 06/12/2018

Thank you for all your efforts classifying photos this month, particularly for the County Durham Survey project. We were blown away by how many classifications everyone managed to do in a relatively short period of time, and we are really grateful! Read on to see just how many classifications were done on the project. In this newsletter, we also talk about recent changes to the website, where images on MammalWeb come from, and where to find guides to small mammal camera trapping. This will be our last newsletter before Christmas, so from all of us here at MammalWeb, we'd like to wish you a very merry Christmas, and we look forward to seeing what 2019 brings!

November 2018

Number of image sequences uploaded Number of image sequences classified
16,889 30,753

These values include all photos from the general MammalWeb UK project, and our other public projects. Thank you to everyone who has uploaded and classified photos this month.

Website updates

Some of you will have noticed that we have been doing maintenance on the website over the past month. As a result, at times, the website has been running slower and you may not have been able to classify or upload photos. We'd like to apologise for this. The underlying systems on which the MammalWeb platform is built had developed a backlog of required updates, and it was essential that this site maintenance was carried out. The backlog has been substantially reduced but further maintenance is still required.

We are aware of two ongoing problems that you might notice, depending on your internet speed. First, when you begin spotting, it can take a while before the first sequence is displayed. We will work to resolve this but it does seem to be a short-lived problem (with subsequent sequences displayed much more rapidly). Second, the site can be slightly "glitchy", occasionally taking a little while to respond to the "Next sequence" button, and even less frequently presenting a sequence that you have already classified (complete with your previous classification). We are looking into what causes this latter problem. If it happens to you, the best thing is to advance to the end of the sequence and click "Next sequence". We'll have it sorted out as soon as possible. If you spot any different problems, please do let us know by emailing: info@PROTECTED.

As part of the site update, we've also updated the statistics that are shown when you log in as a spotter. This includes your position in the spotter league table, which is based on the number of sequences you've classified. The statistics are currently updated at intervals, which may mean there is a lag between you classifying photos, and the relevant statistics being shown. Don't worry! If this happens, your classifications are still being counted; if you check back in a few hours, you should see the updated statistics. We will be increasing the frequency at which statistics are updated in due course. We hope you enjoy seeing how many classifications you've done, and trying to climb up the league table!

Zooming in on images

A common feature request is to be able to zoom in on parts of images to check what, if anything, they show. This is something on our wishlist too but it might not be possible to implement it very soon (because, amazing as Helen is - and it is she who does the development work - there is sadly only one of her!). One work-around that some MammalWeb spotters use is to right-click on a photo of interest and choose "Open image in new tab", or similar. Once the image is open in a new tab, some browsers will automatically zoom in when you click on the image; in other browsers, you might need to click CTRL+ (on a PC) or CMD+ (on a Mac) to enlarge the image. If you have cleverer work-arounds, we'd love to hear about them!

Where do images on MammalWeb come from?

As many of you will know, MammalWeb was initially trialled in County Durham and surrounding parts of North East England. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the vast majority of the data on the site still come from that area.  So far, 94 Trappers have uploaded over 500,000 images from cameras deployed at 424 different sites.  Of those, 14 sites lack location data but the other 410 are distributed as shown on the map.

As you can see, coverage is starting to expand from our original geographic focus.  Obviously, however, we’ll have a better chance of understanding where our wild mammals occur and what affects that if we can get much more comprehensive coverage across the UK.  Consequently, if you have contacts elsewhere in the country who might be interested in monitoring mammals, feel free to encourage them to get involved.  In fact, with Christmas coming, now might be a perfect time to kick start their interests with a timely gift of a camera trap (starting, seemingly, from as little as £32)!

On a related note, we are as interested in where wildlife does NOT occur as where it does occur.  Consequently, if you deploy a camera but get no wildlife pictures, it’s still valuable to upload the data, telling us where and for how long the camera was deployed.  This is most effective if you upload at least one image - so it would be worth ensuring that your camera triggers at least once during any deployment (e.g., by waving your hand in front of the sensor when you first deploy the camera, when you come back to collect it, or - ideally - both).

Guide to Small Mammal Camera Trapping

Thank you to everyone who has been trying out their small mammal ID skills on our new project: "Small Mammal Camera Trapping". The project includes some lovely close-up images of small mammals, that were taken using a modified camera trap. If you are interested in capturing similar images, be aware that there are some helpful guides that show you how you can modify your own camera trap, and make/buy the surrounding box, on our News page. Please note that you must be logged in to MammalWeb in order to see these guides. Once logged in, see links in the articles from the 08-11-2018 and the 13-11-2018. If you do have a go at modifying your own camera trap, or are already using camera traps in this way, then we'd love to hear from you! Email us at: info@PROTECTED.

County Durham Survey Project

Thank you to everyone who classified photos on the County Durham Survey project this month. You submitted a whopping 18,944 classifications, on almost 15,000 photo sequences, which is an astonishing achievement! We'd particularly like to say well done and thank you to Anne Kelly, Clive Moulding and Shannon McCallion, who were the winners of our prize draw, and walked away with either a £100 or £50 voucher.

The project is still open and we'd like to encourage you to keep spotting on the project, as the more classifications we get on each photo, the more confident we can be about what's in the photo (see here). There are also some photos yet to be uploaded, so keep a look out on the Projects page to see when these photos have been uploaded. For now, though, here are just some of the best photos from the project.

More great photos

If you would like to see more great photos that have been collected on MammalWeb over the past few years (mainly from our trappers Roland Ascroft and Anne Kelly), then check out this flickr album which has been kindly made by Pen, for everyone to enjoy!

Thank you for all your efforts this year, and Merry Christmas!