Creature Feature: North Carolina’s Candid Critters
By Alex McCloskey, Teen Newsroom producer.
Imagine having to collect thousands of camera traps filled with photographs from a multitude of locations. Now imagine having to sift through and organize all of that information. When the very first camera trap was deployed in the 1920s the photos were much harder to store without the technology we are gifted with today. Scientists can benefit greatly from digital archives because of their ability to be accessed easily. The ability to share digital information simply and quickly is why the North Carolina Candid Critters program is important. Roland Kays, head of the Biodiversity lab at the Museum of Natural Sciences, is the director of the program. Using digital archiving can allow Kays’ class at NC State University to quickly and easily compare, contrast, and visualize data from 2013 and 2016 to see what has changed over time.
The major goal of camera traps has always been to learn how to measure changes in animal populations. There were originally around 500 volunteers and 2,000 cameras across 6 states who sent in roughly 4 million photos. The goal in the next three years is to expand not only across all 100 counties of North Carolina, but to do so with thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of locations.
Preparation for the use of these mass digital archives consists of getting cameras organized and volunteers trained. Citizen scientists who participate and set up the camera traps can learn about and connect more with the animals. All pictures citizen scientists capture are wanted by the NC Candid Critters program. The adventure-minded people who capture the photos identify which animal it is and experts verify the identification. Digital archiving acts like a voucher that the animal was in a specific spot during a specific time. This way the experts studying these species don’t have to rely on eyewitness accounts to document the animals’ whereabouts.
Creature Feature is your closer look at the interesting animals around us in North Carolina. Get the facts on these cool critters and more at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences!