ARMN volunteers enjoy helping Smithsonian eMammal camera trapping project

By Jeanette Murry and Alan Tidwell

We  graduated from the spring 2012 ARMN Basic Training Course. During the summer and fall, we volunteered on a camera trapping project called eMammal organized by the Smithsonian. We focused on Keyser Run Fire Trail in the Shenandoah National Park for our trapping.

When we saw the eMammal Project advertised through the ARMN listserv, it sounded interesting and challenging, so in August we went along to a half-day training at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at Front Royal, VA.

Tavis Forrester, eMammal Project Coordinator and a wildlife biologist, describes the project: “eMammal is a large-scale NSF-funded citizen science project using volunteers and remote cameras. eMammal is a further development of SI Wild, an existing project that has pooled camera-trapping images from all over the world and will be expanded to allow volunteers to upload data, and then expanded again to allow visitors to analyze and visualize data.”

Our role, under the excellent guidance of Megan Baker from the Smithsonian, was to deploy 3 cameras – one on the trail at a specified location, the second and third cameras at 50 and 200 meters respectively away from the trail. After 3 weeks, we would collect the cameras, change batteries and SD cards, and then redeploy the cameras to the next locations. We did a total of 4 deployments, finishing on November 10.

The cameras are activated by heat sensing  and motion sensing, so they mostly snap only images of mammals, but occasionally a close-range bird will trigger the camera. When the camera is activated, it takes a series of 10 images and in total we had many thousands of  pictures which we uploaded to the Smithsonian website. The most common mammal on Keyser Run Trail is the two-legged variety – homo sapien! These pictures are not made public but the other mammals are.


Photos we got off the trail are exclusively of wildlife and we have pictures of plenty of black bears, white tailed deer, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, raccoon, and one mouse. For the birders, we also captured images of ruffed grouse, downy woodpecker, robins, and a northern yellow flicker.


The bears were very curious about the cameras and would chew them, rub on them, push, pull, and in one case broke, one of the cameras. We captured images of bear teeth, eyes, mouth, tongues among more intimate bear images.
The most challenging part of the project was getting 200 meters off the trail to a precise GPS location on  a steep rocky mountain side. Jeanette may have been the only person wondering  through the rocky mountain side, slipping and sliding, and holding an ipad with GPS and a sack full of cameras.
eMammal was a great project to be involved in. We learned a lot about remote cameras, mammal type and animal density in particular habitats, and how animals and humans interact on trails. A great side benefit was the excellent exercise opportunity. One deployment involved a 12 mile hike! We are looking forward to the camera trapper party at the Smithsonian and to doing more trapping in 2013.

2 thoughts on “ARMN volunteers enjoy helping Smithsonian eMammal camera trapping project

  1. I agree. What a super project! I really like the bobcat. I wonder how many are still out in the Shenandoah.

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