THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Calling all community scientists in Los Angeles!
Biologists at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area have launched a crowdsourcing effort to catalog tens of thousands of wildlife photos that have been collected over the past year and were taken from several dozen cameras that have been set up along the Los Angeles River.
The “Wildlife of Los Angeles Project” is part of a research project to document urban animals who live in one of the densest and most populated cities in the world. To participate, one does not need a scientific background or degree. What is needed is access to the internet, time, and attention to detail. Users interested in participating in the project can log onto a website called Zooniverse (here) and access photos from the collection. Clear instructions on how to “tag” photos are given on the website.
These photos are ultimately turned into data that can be analyzed by tagging species and the number of individuals. They can then be combined with information collected in the field and through remote sensing to identify factors that affect wildlife in the region.
In the U.S., more than 80% of the human population occurs in cities, yet scientists know very little about the wildlife in these areas, says Justin Brown, the National Park Service biologist leading the project.
“A lot of work needs to be done to understand how increases in urbanized areas impact wildlife species and their ability to survive around us. Urbanization poses many threats to wildlife such as loss of habitat, fragmentation of habitat, roads and traffic, poisons and toxins, people, and pets,” Brown said.
So far, the animals most commonly seen include coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, deer and squirrels.
“We are hoping that Angelenos will help us with this project and see what is living among the millions of people living in the region,” Brown said.
Brown said he also plans to use the data to identify changes in wildlife species occurrence through time at varying levels of urbanization and, identify how wildlife may be changing their behavior to persist in urbanized areas.
Last year, 37 cameras were placed in urban and rural parks, golf courses, and undeveloped strips of land by volunteers and partner groups. Currently, 37 camera sites are being monitored in areas within two kilometers of the Los Angeles River.
The most recent photos of wildlife were taken by motion-activated cameras set up by the National Park Service and volunteers from Citizens for LA Wildlife (CLAW), Friends of Griffith Park, Friends of the LA River, Heal the Bay, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, the Natural History Museum, the National Wildlife Federation, California State Parks, Latino Outdoors, and the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council. Last year, the Nature Conservancy, the San Fernando Chapter of the Audubon Society and the Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club helped set up cameras.
NPS also monitors numerous other cameras to look at roadways and identify ways to improve permeability, as well as cameras to monitor post fire areas. These data sets may also be put up on Zooniverse in their own work flow when the data is completed for the LA city camera project.
The cameras monitor specific locations four times a year for a month each time, easily generating an estimated 8,000 pictures to analyze each round. Each section hosts three cameras.
Thus far, the only mountain lion to make a cameo appearance on a motion-activated camera during this project has been P-22.