Biological diversity: discovery, science, and management in this issue



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Participants

In 2013 approximately 60 people attended the two events, one-third of whom brought a smartphone camera and had preinstalled the iNaturalist app; about two-thirds were equipped with a traditional digital camera and uploaded photos at a later time. One NPS staff (20 hours) and two partner staff (80 hours) helped present and guide activities. In 2014 approximately 50 people attended the bioblitz and they stayed for multiple programs, for a total of 137 program participants.



Results

Observations made during park walks and reported to iNaturalist numbered 111 in 2013. This year observations reported increased to 847 from 338 species. Most insect species were new park records (see photo) and included 4 new species of bumble bees for the park in 2013, and 2 more in 2014. Fifteen species of birds were reported on the first field day; 11 were recorded the second day. In 2014, 47 species of birds were reported for the bioblitz.

[With a wingspan of 2.4 inches (62 mm), the ilia underwing (Catocalailia), a moth, was first documented for Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park during the first of two Vermont Atlas of Life surveys in 2013. Credit: Copyright Kent McFarland/Used by permission]

With a wingspan of 2.4 inches (62 mm), the ilia underwing (Catocalailia), a moth, was first documented for Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park during the first of two Vermont Atlas of Life surveys in 2013.

Resources

• Photo collections are viewable at http://www.inaturalist.org /places/marsh-billings-rockefeller-national-historical-park -woodstock-vt-us.

• Bird observations are mapped and summarized by month online at http://ebird.org/ebird/vt/GuideMe?src=changeDate&getLocations=hotspots&hotspots=L271555%2CL769957 %2CL697684%2CL697688%2CL697689%2CL769958 &parentState=US-VT&reportType=location&monthRadio=on&bMonth=01&eMonth=12&bYear=1900&eYear=2014&continue .x=47&continue.y=10.

Publications

Accomplishments reports are available at https://irma.nps.gov/App/Reference/Profile/2204770 and https://irma.nps.gov/App /Reference/Profile/2215605.



Park contact

Kyle Jones (kyle_jones@nps.gov)



Camera-trap surveys in the southeastern Arizona national parks

[A black bear scratches its back against a tree. Credit: NPS poto]



(Clockwise from top left) The automated cameras captured activities of a black bear scratching a tree at Garfield Spring in Chiricahua, a bear using a stream to cool off during summer at Stafford Dam in Chiricahua, daytime spring use by coatimundi, and white-tailed deer at Fort Bowie.

NPS PHOTOS (4)

Parks

Chiricahua National Monument, Fort Bowie National Historic Site, and Coronado National Memorial



Time frame

Fort Bowie camera-trap bioblitz: fall 2013 Long-term camera-trap water source monitoring (all three parks): 2009 to present



Focus

Bioblitz: Small to medium-sized mammals Monitoring: Medium-sized to large mammals, birds, human activity



Key partners

Saguaro National Park, Sonoran Desert I&M Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



Participation

Bioblitz: Eight full-time park employees and five Student Conservation Association interns, totaling 142 hours



Methods

Bioblitz: We conducted a six-week-long mammal census involving 44 remotely triggered, randomly and non-randomly placed cameras. Using a protocol developed by Saguaro National Park’s Nic Perkins and Don Swann, staff analyzed photos for presence and activity of wildlife, and identified animals to species level. Photo Mechanic software was used to edit metadata, including recording information on species, location, identification, and camera setup.

Monitoring: We also operate 14 camera traps year-round at water sources and two trailheads in the parks to monitor for the effects of human traffic on wildlife corridors. Software is used to analyze photos for species, revealing behavior and use patterns related to time of year.

Results

Approximately 13,000 of 345,000 photos from the six-week Fort Bowie bioblitz were of wildlife, which helped inform development of a species list for the park. Randomly placed cameras were not as successful at capturing wildlife images as those placed by biologists. An additional 300,000 photos were from the longer-term water source monitoring project, which confirmed hibernation of black bears, nocturnal activity of skunks, diurnal patterns of coati mundi, the size of javelina litters, and the time of year when white-tailed deer bucks lose their antlers and fawns lose their spots.



Number of species

30 species identified



Applications

In addition to improving our understanding of park wildlife, the findings from the two camera projects are being used to help assess impacts on wildlife resulting from human activity along the U.S.-Mexico border. The information is also useful for monitoring ecological recovery following wildfires, signaled in part by the return of wildlife to burned areas. Photos and time-lapse videos are also very popular for educational programs and public outreach. The randomly placed cameras also help managers assess wildlife distribution across the parks.



Publications

Two reports are in production and will be published in the Natural Resource Data Series. A methods summary and project briefing brochure also will be published.



Parks contact

Jason Mateljak (jason_mateljak@nps.gov)


Mammal diversity monitoring in Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Focus

Medium-sized and large mammals



Methods

Randomly placed, unbaited wildlife cameras (camera traps) to monitor species richness and other community parameters



Key partners

Friends of Saguaro National Park, National Park Foundation, Sky Island Alliance, and others



Participation

Park biological technicians, youth interns (as many as 10), volunteers, and high school students



Number of species

24 native species, plus nonnative dogs, cats, and cows



Summary

We used unbaited camera traps in a random design to estimate species richness of large and medium-sized mammals for long-term monitoring. We stratified the park’s two units by elevation, established and randomly selected 1 km2 (0.4 mi2) grids, and designated random points within each grid. We set cameras in a location where they operated continuously for six weeks. We then moved the cameras to a different location for another six-week sample. This pattern of moving cameras throughout the sampling period of May 2011 to August 2012 helped us attempt to equalize sampling effort in each stratum. We collected 4,751 photos of 24 native medium-sized and large species over 14,693 camera nights. We estimated that 25 (SD = 0.91) medium-sized and large mam mal species occur in Saguaro National Park. We compared our results with a similar randomized, though less comprehensive, survey in 2000–2002, and determined that no significant change in species richness has occurred parkwide over the past decade. However, we did not detect several species in the Tucson Mountain District that were photographed previously. This project also included a large educational component. We had students set and check wildlife cameras throughout the year and as part of the 2011 NPS–National Geographic Society BioBlitz. We also created a dedicated Web site for wildlife photos with the Friends of Saguaro National Park (https://saguwildcams.shutterfly.com/).



Implications

Mammals are a high-profile taxonomic group in many parks, but most mammal monitoring is limited to threatened species or charismatic game species. Wildlife cameras are often used to monitor marked animals or at artificial water sources; however, few parks use them to monitor their mammal biodiversity. Saguaro National Park’s long-term monitoring program uses camera traps to track the status of the entire community of medium-sized and large mammals in the park, which includes both high-profile species (e.g., mountain lions) and very elusive and vulnerable species (e.g., ringtails and American badgers). We are working with our partners in southern Arizona to develop a protocol for other parks and refuges that includes occupancy analysis and builds on knowledge gained from two international camera-trap programs that are particularly relevant for U.S. national parks: the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI) and the Terrestrial Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) network (see article below).



Park contact

Don Swann (don_swann@nps.gov)


Camera traps for monitoring biodiversity

By Don Swann

Camera traps (also called wildlife cameras), used in many parks to document species occurrence and estimate population size, are emerging as an exciting new technology for monitoring biodiversity, particularly for mammals and terrestrial birds. Two efforts stand out that are particularly relevant for monitoring mammal communities in U.S. and Canadian national parks: the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI; O’Brien et al. 2010) and the Terrestrial Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) network (Ahumada et al. 2011, 2013). Both approaches use arrays of multiple camera traps set in a randomized design to sample mammals on a landscape scale. Results from the TEAM network show that the surveys effectively track trends in species diversity, including species richness, evenness, and dominance. The Wildlife Picture Index has been described as “a promising new indicator derived from camera trap data that measures changes in biodiversity from the occupancy estimates of individual species” (Ahumada et al. 2013), and is being used to monitor mammal com munities in Mongolia, Costa Rica, and other areas.

In addition to community monitoring, the technology associ ated with camera traps and data analysis techniques continues to develop rapidly; a second international conference on this topic was held in Sydney, Australia, in September 2012. Developing approaches include use of camera traps to monitor rodents, other small mammals, and herpetofauna, and to estimate abundance of unmarked animals (the Random Encounter Model; Rowcliffe et al. 2008).



Literature

Ahumada, J. A., J. Hurtado, and D. Lizcano. 2013. Monitoring the status and trends of tropical forest terrestrial vertebrate communities from camera trap data: A tool for conservation. PLoS ONE 8(9):e73707. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073707.

Ahumada, J. A., C. E. F. Silva, K. Gajapersad, C. Hallam, J. Hurtado, E. Martin, A. McWilliam, B. Mugerwa, T. O’Brien, F. Rovero, D. Sheil, W. R. Spironello, N. Winarni, and S. J. Andelman. 2011. Community structure and diversity of tropical forest mammals: Data from a global camera trap network. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366(1578):2703–2711.doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0115.

O’Brien, T. G., J. E. Baille, and M. Cuke. 2010. The Wildlife Picture Index: Monitoring top trophic levels. Animal Conservation 13(4):335–343. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00357.x.

Rowcliffe, J. M., J. Field, S. T. Turvey, and C. Carbone. 2008. Estimating animal density using camera traps without the need for individual recognition. Journal of Applied Ecology 45(4):1228–1236. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01473.x.

About the author

Don Swann is a biologist with Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. He can be reached at don_swann@nps.gov.

Engaging park stewards through biodiversity discovery: Social outcomes of participation in bioblitzes

By Kirsten M. Leong and Gerard T. Kyle



Abstract

Large-scale bioblitzes, such as those conducted jointly by the National Park Service and National Geographic Society, provide an opportunity for visitors to engage directly in inventories of lesser-known species in parks. Working side by side with scientists, members of the public contribute to the development of knowledge about park resources, learn about the scientific method, and experience the park in a new way. This study examined the social outcomes of this type of citizen science effort to improve the design and promotion of future biodiversity discovery events. Results indicate that these bioblitzes are meeting primary social objectives and attract participants with a strong stewardship ethic and desire to contribute to the betterment of society and the environment. Bioblitzes also provide an opportunity for participants to deepen their connections with national parks. Future events should emphasize science contributions of bioblitz activities to help meet participants’ needs related to learning, conservation, and contributing to a greater good. This, in conjunction with the activity itself, can help improve the relevancy of parks, a goal of the National Park Service.



Key words

bioblitz, citizen science, National Geographic Society, socialpsychological science, visitor experiences

Resource management projects that incorporate public participation in scientific research (i.e., citizen science) are often designed, evaluated, and scrutinized with respect to the rigor of scientific data collection and analysis. Yet the social benefits of these endeavors are becoming increasingly recognized (Bonney et al. 2014; Kyle and Eccles 2009; NPS 2010) and can contribute directly to the National Park Service (NPS) mission. The Service has been engaging in bioblitzes at various scales since the term was coined in 1996 at an event at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C. The first long-running program to regularly incorporate bioblitzes was the All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory initiated at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1997 (NPS 2010). Most bioblitzes at parks engage on the order of tens to hundreds of participants. In 2006 the National Park Service and National Geographic Society (NGS) entered into a partnership to cosponsor a large-scale “BioBlitz” each year for 10 years in a national park located near a large urban area, with the final event occurring in 2016, the year of the NPS centennial celebration. These bioblitzes attract thousands of participants and typically are compressed, 24-hour events6 in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible. They also include an educational “biodiversity fair” component with exhibitors, activities, and entertainment, as well as opportunities to engage with scientists processing specimens, entering data, or giving talks about their research. The NPS-NGS partnership has brought attention to the range of possibilities to engage the public in park inventories, particularly of lesser-known taxonomic groups, and also addresses the NPS Call to Action item “Next Generation Stewards” (NPS 2013), which emphasizes citizen involvement in biodiversity discovery in national parks, including urban units.

Large-scale NPS-NGS BioBlitzes also enable the evaluation of broad social-psychological outcomes because of the large number of participants and the range of activities available. Like other research activities in national parks that involve the public, NPSNGS BioBlitzes serve multiple purposes. They document the diversity of life in parks and engage curious citizens, educators, and other park supporters in science and stewardship. While the gain in scientific information is invaluable to park management, it is important to understand social-psychological outcomes to determine the degree to which bioblitzes achieve the goal of developing participants’ appreciation of science and stewardship.

To better understand bioblitz participants’ experiences, motivations, feelings about the natural environment, and demographic characteristics, we conducted a series of studies at the NPS-NGS BioBlitzes held at Biscayne National Park (hereafter “Biscayne,” near Miami, Florida) in 2010, Saguaro National Park (“Saguaro,” near Tucson, Arizona) in 2011, and Rocky Mountain National Park (“Rocky Mountain,” near Denver, Colorado) in 2012. Results can be used to improve the design and promotion of future biodiversity discovery events based on audience characteristics, motivations, and satisfaction. In addition, results demonstrate the degree to which these events attract and engage the public in science and stewardship of parks. Full details of each study will be made available in the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Natural Resource Report Series in 2015 (http://www.nature.nps.gov/publications/nrpmnrr.cfm). In this article we highlight study results with particular management application.

Methods

Data collection

On-site survey data were collected from participants at each bioblitz over a 26-hour period from 10 a.m. on Friday through noon on Saturday. This sampling period covered the duration of the event. Researchers were stationed at designated event parking lots, shuttle drop-off points, and event exhibition areas. Every second visitor was approached to participate in a brief (approximately three-minute) on-site survey (fig. 1). For groups of more than one, adults (>18 years of age) with the most recent birthday were asked to participate. We collected basic information about participants and an e-mail or postal address so that they could participate in a more in-depth survey following their bioblitz experience. Based on their stated preference, respondents then received either an e-mail or paper mail-back questionnaire one to two weeks after the bioblitz. Reminders, follow-ups, and thank-you notes were periodically sent to nonrespondents following protocols for the administration of mixed-mode surveys (Dillman et al. 2008). The survey questions were divided into five sections that related to (1) respondents’ participation in past bioblitzes and park programs, (2) their experiences at the specific bioblitz, (3) their experiences with the park, (4) their feelings about the natural environment, and (5) sociodemographic information.

[A student from Texas A&M University surveys visitors at the NPS-NGS BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012. Credit: Photo courtesy of Parker Batt]

Figure 1. A student from Texas A&M University surveys visitors at the NPS-NGS BioBlitz at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012.

Data analysis

Completed and usable survey data were coded and entered into a database for analysis using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) version 20. For various response categories, we estimated frequency distributions and valid percentages (i.e., percentages excluding missing values from skipped questions). Also, we calculated descriptive statistics to illustrate mean values (i.e., averages) and standard deviations, and created figures for selected variables to guide interpretation of the study findings.



Results

We received 133 completed follow-up surveys from participants at Rocky Mountain, 159 from Saguaro, and 100 from Biscayne, with response rates of 37.7%, 69.7%, and 66.2%, respectively. We used the initial contact information to compare characteristics of respondents with those of nonrespondents and did not see any significant differences that would indicate a nonrespondent bias. At all three parks, visitors reported similar levels of participation in past bioblitzes and other NPS programs in addition to the current bioblitz. Respondents did not report extensive previous experiences with bioblitzes in general; however, approximately six respondents at each park had participated in a previous bioblitz at locations ranging from other national parks and natural areas near their homes to Mexico. While visiting the respective parks, approximately one-third of respondents took part in NPS presentations or programs outside of the NPS-NGS–sponsored event.



The majority of respondents at Biscayne, Saguaro, and Rocky Mountain participated in the event with friends, family, or colleagues, and learned about the bioblitz through various outlets, including others’ recommendations and newspaper and magazine articles. For respondents at all three bioblitzes, contributing to society and opportunities to learn from others compelled participants to engage in the event. Items that scored particularly high as reasons for their participation related to getting involved in something meaningful, seeking out and enjoying the wonders of nature, supporting the park, playing a role in the conservation of nature, making life better for the coming generation, learning about different species of flora and fauna, and being a benefit to society or the community (table 1).

Table 1. Reported motivation among participants in the three bioblitzes




Rocky Mountain

Saguaro

Biscayne

Motivation

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Involve myself in something meaningful

4.2

1.0

4.0

1.5

3.7

1.2

Seek out and enjoy the wonders of nature

4.2

1.1

3.9

1.5

3.9

1.1

Feel like I am supporting the park

4.1

1.0

4.1

1.4

4.0

1.0

Feel I can play a role in the conservation of nature

4.0

1.6

4.1

1.1

3.9

1.1

Make life better for the coming generation

4.0

1.1

3.9

1.1

3.9

1.1

Learn about different species of flora and fauna

4.0

1.0

3.8

1.5

3.9

1.2

Have an opportunity to try new things

4.0

1.0

3.8

1.0

3.6

1.1

Be optimistic about nature’s future

3.9

1.2

3.5

1.3

3.6

1.1

Be of benefit to society or the community

3.8

1.6

3.8

1.1

3.9

1.1

Learn how nature works

3.8

1.2

3.7

1.2

3.6

1.4

Learn about the practice of science

3.8

1.1

3.5

1.6

3.3

1.3

Feel I am doing something useful

3.7

1.7

3.9

1.2

3.8

1.2

Meet friendly and interesting people

3.7

1.3

3.6

1.1

3.5

1.1

Refine my understanding of science

3.7

1.6

3.2

1.3

3.3

1.2

Apply my scientific skills

3.5

1.9

2.4

2.1

3.1

1.4

Help me with my personal growth

3.4

1.5

2.7

1.3

2.7

1.4

Stay healthy

3.4

1.5

2.7

1.4

2.6

1.3

Be in a quiet peaceful spot

3.2

2.0

2.1

1.5

2.7

1.3

Work with different age groups

3.0

1.7

3.0

1.4

3.0

1.5

Be alone with my thoughts

2.7

2.2

1.7

1.4

1.9

1.1

Build my self-confidence and personal growth

2.6

1.7

2.1

1.2

2.0

1.2

Impacts from participation in the bioblitz were widespread. On average, respondents at all parks agreed that the bioblitz was meeting objectives related to providing opportunities for visitors to learn from professionals, experience the park in a new way, and learn about science (fig. 2). In addition, they agreed that participation in the event increased their knowledge of the local ecosystem and its life-forms. At Rocky Mountain and Saguaro, a series of related questions was presented to respondents about potential implications of the bioblitz program for the National Park System as a whole. On average, respondents agreed that this kind of event would aid in management of the park’s natural resources, add to science-based knowledge, increase understanding of biodiversity, and inform the public about park resources.

[(Graph) Comparison among mean values of responses with four statements reflecting the human impact of participation in bioblitz programs across three national parks, measured on a Likert scale where 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither disagree nor agree, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree. Data are as follows: Learn from professionals—Biscayne: 4.1, Saguaro: 4.0, Rocky Mountain: 4.3; Experience the park in a new way—Biscayne: 4.2, Saguaro: 4.0, Rocky Mountain: 4.0; Learn about science—Biscayne: 4.0, Saguaro: 3.9, Rocky Mountain: 4.1; Species of plants and animals—Biscayne: 3.8, Saguaro: 3.8, Rocky Mountain: 3.8]


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