By CIDD graduate student Emily Almberg
Each year, Yellowstone National Park attracts millions of visitors, many of which come with the goal of watching and photographing the park’s abundant wildlife, particularly wolves. Wolves were successfully reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996, and ever since, the Yellowstone Wolf Project has been collecting one of the most extensive and long-term datasets of any mammal in the world. Despite the considerable effort expended by the Project’s crews to collect these data, we have the potential to dramatically improve and expand a number of their datasets by tapping into the large pool of photographic data collected by wildlife watchers, professional photographers, and visitors to Yellowstone. We are proposing to create a citizen science website that would act as a central hub for collecting and displaying visitor photos and accompanying data on wolves in Yellowstone.
Our proposed site would allow the public to upload their photographs of wolves and describe when and where they saw the animals as well as their suspected identity and pack affiliation. We would then cross-check these photos for quality and validity and extract the data necessary to answer questions about pack composition, individual histories, and individuals’ infection status with sarcoptic mange, a mite infection that causes hair-loss and increased mortality. The site would in turn act as an educational tool for the wolf-watching community and general public, displaying photographic histories of individual wolves, maps of territory ranges, information on pack compositions and genealogy, as well as highlighting some of the Wolf Project’s most recent research.