Pittsburg State University, in alliance with the City of Pittsburg, were chosen by the Smithsonian to participate in a nationwide project.
PSU junior Caleb Durbin, biology major with an emphasis in wildlife and conservation, started the initial project last year, doing research for his own project but didn’t receive any awards or praise during his first go-around. But the year following, Christine Brodsky, assistant professor in the PSU Biology Department, received an email in July from the Smithsonian as they were interested in choosing Pittsburg State to represent Kansas for the ‘Snapshot USA’ project.
The University of Kansas is participating in the project as well. Their group will study the prairie areas of Kansas.
“It’s crazy because I didn’t think it would go as far as this but to have the cameras deployed and everything, it’s a relief..,” said Durbin. “Just recently our group received an email from the Dean of Arts and Sciences congratulating us on the achievement. It was amazing.”
PSU also partnered with the City of Pittsburg in an effort to find locations to put their trail cameras. With permission, the City of Pittsburg allowed the group to place their cameras in areas of high foliage.
“It’s important to partner with Pittsburg State, because sometimes we take for granted that PSU has a national footprint and a national profile in some areas,” said City of Pittsburg Deputy City Manager Jay Byers. “It’s a university that can have an impact nationally. [This project] raises Pittsburg on a national scale to be recognized as a location where we are working with a national location such as the Smithsonian. It’s essentially one more step in recognizing Pittsburg as a town that has a national profile.”
Snapshot USA’s goal is to facilitate the collaboration of cooperators to contribute to a national database of public wildlife data. Once compiled, the first objective is to examine nationwide trends in mammal community assembly rules associated with natural environmental and anthropogenic filters. The group hopes to grow the participation in order to monitor these trends over time and will address more species-specific and targeted questions in the future.
The national database where all the photos will be located is called ‘eMammal.’ EMammal is a data management system and archive for camera trap research projects. The cyber-tool is designed to not only be useful to scientists, but also to the citizen scientists who aid scientists in photo collection. Camera trappers use the software to look at pictures, identify animals and upload them for review and archive at the Smithsonian. Normally when it comes to posting photos and storing them it costs a fee, but PSU will be able to upload all photos for free as a part of being in the project.
The event was held in an undisclosed area within Pittsburg as students involved in the project deployed the last of the placed cameras to track mammal activity. Ten cameras were placed in undisclosed locations around Pittsburg, tracking various mammals or species within the city.
“I believe our motto, sort of (an) unofficial motto, is ‘by doing, learn,’ that we see it all across campus,” said Director of Media Relations, Andra Stefanoni. “It just underscores that students who attend PSU are learning by not just using textbooks. They’re out in the field, whether it’s electrical engineers rewiring the Ronald McDonald House to communication students launching full-scale theatre productions… The cool thing about this [Snapshot USA] is that students are having an impact on a national scale and it’s useable information.”