“Honors Wildlife Research” by Shayna Demick

I am fascinated by studying plants and animals. I am an Environmental Science major with an Ecoscience concentration and am especially interested in the biological components of the environment. A class about the interactions between wildlife and the environment is the perfect intersection of my interests; luckily, I am in such a class. 

I am enrolled in the Honors section of ENWC201: Wildlife Conservation and Ecology. For the Honors extension, students have been conducting wildlife research in the woodlot on South Campus.  I am very grateful that this class is a part of my major requirements, particularly because of its hands-on Honors section. My research group chose to study the effects of lures on attracting wildlife. We wanted to see which lures were most effective and which lures appealed to different species. The lures that we used in our research were “Obsession” by Calvin Klein, fatty acid tablets, and “Gusto” (mouse guts and skunk, ew!). 

We had six cameras, two with each lure. We put three cameras on one half of the woodlot and three on the other half so we could ensure that the location of each camera was not a confounding variable in our experiment. 

When I wrote my last blog post, my group had just set out our cameras and embarked on our research process. The data collection part of the research has now been completed and during the last class, we went through each photo on our cameras–we had over a thousand! This was extremely entertaining and fascinating. Hundreds of the photos were of myself and my group members, most of which were candids of our foreheads and legs. I am heavily considering using one of the photos as my new Linkedin headshot.  

The rest of the photos on the cameras were of animals investigating the lures as well as empty woods where animal motion was detected. In the most recent class meeting, we identified and labeled all of the photos, carefully assigning each animal a species.

 In the main section of the class, students had to complete a field research module in which they identified animals from Dr. Kyle McCarthy’s game camera footage. Many of the photos were blurry and/or only showed parts of the animal, making it difficult to confidently identify the species. While this process required much trial and error, understanding how to analyze game camera footage made the honors research process go smoothly. 

The next step of the research process will consist of going through the footage from the control cameras and comparing the results to the experimental cameras. We will be quantifying the trends in our footage in order to perform statistical analysis at the end of our research. At first glance, it appears that the predominant species attracted to our lures were white-tail deer and squirrels. However, there were a substantial number of foxes and raccoons. 

The game camera footage is adorable; I cannot get enough of the silly animal pictures. My group members and I have given the photos captions in our spreadsheet and they’re hilarious. 

I call this photo: Nose deep in the Gusto.

This next photo is called: Two bestie raccoons. 

The final photo that I am sharing is of a distraught deer staring into the soul of the camera. It is titled: “WHAT IS GOING ON.” This caption is objectively accurate and I especially enjoy that it is in all caps. This photo is a bit of a jumpscare, but since the deer is so adorable, I am okay with the jumpscare. However, if you are afraid of deer, I would click away from this article immediately. 

I am so excited to be done with the data collection and to have such a wide variety of animal footage! I will be making a collage on my wall of the funniest photos and inserting a bloopers section into my final presentation. With images as high quality as mine, it is pertinent that I include bloopers. I look forward to presenting the final research results!

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1 Comment

  1. Great work Shayna!

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