- Associated Press - Sunday, February 15, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Volunteers have conducted a survey of mammals in East Tennessee state parks by using technology.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1AjBLlh) reports 42 volunteers manned remote cameras at 450 sites at Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area and the adjoining Emory tract, Fall Creek Falls State Park and Lone Mountain State Forest.

The volunteers were recruited by a research project called eMammal, which provided the cameras, software and instructions. Each volunteer placed three cameras in different locations: on a trail; 50 meters from a trail; and 200 meters from a trail. Every three weeks, they changed the cameras’ batteries and SD cards and moved them to a new location.

A report on the Tennessee study, which took place in 2013, says species richness was highest at Fall Creek Falls State Park, where 13 species were detected.

Researchers hope the study will show how factors like human activity and forest fragmentation are affecting populations of wildlife.

One of the volunteers at Frozen Head State Park was Mac Post, a retired environmental scientist with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“It seemed that at every site, I always found animals busily doing their thing,” Post said. “You really appreciate how hard they work, and when they’re most active.”

He said he got photos of a variety of animals including feral hogs, white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, rabbits and chipmunks.

“The peak wildlife activity seemed to be between 10 p.m. and midnight,” he said.

Another volunteer, Michele Thornton of Oak Ridge, was assigned to Lone Mountain State Forest, just south of Frozen Head, where she got images of animals including turkeys, coyotes and squirrels.

“One of my favorite parts was the feeling of anticipation - downloading the memory cards on my computer and seeing what I got,” Thornton said.

The eMammal project is a collaboration between the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution. Project coordinator Arielle Parsons said volunteers help out tremendously in such studies.

“In ecology, we need huge amounts of data to answer large-scale questions,” Parsons said. “Until now, the limiting factor has been having to pay professional scientists, but with a little training and the right equipment, general volunteers now can collect the data. The practice of what we call citizen scientists is exploding.”


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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