Wildlife Monitoring Methods
Nature Mapping Jackson Hole is designed to gather location data of the wildlife resources of the valley. Data collection is done using two types of projects: 1) casual observations, 2) systematic monitoring. As a Nature Mapping Citizen Scientists, you are encouraged to do both.
The first, and most common way, is through casual observations. Such observations can occur while hiking, watching out your living room window or even while driving around. Casual observation implies no set routine, just basic wildlife watching. Casual observations are the basis of a long-term dataset which will prove increasingly valuable as it grows. Often, it is the casual observation that first documents the existence of a species, arrival and departure dates of migrants, changes in distribution, etc. Thus, in order to participate in Nature Mapping, you don't have to change the way you watch wildlife or enjoy the outdoors. However, we must maintain our credibility and follow our motto "WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT" while making casual observations.
Casual observations should be recorded on your field observation form. We suggest having a separate data sheet for each project. These observations can be entered into the database at any time using the web based data entry tool on the Nature Mapping Jackson Hole website. While old observations can be entered, we request that you add your observations to the database within a week. This will allow you to remember specifics and to keep our database up-to-date. Because casual observations are made at many locations, it is always necessary to include the UTM's for the observation.
Systematic monitoring is done by following a specific protocol and is used for Nature Mapping projects vs. casual observations. For example, when collecting data for a project you may be asked to watch wildlife from a specific location during a specific time frame and duration, and in a specific manner (i.e. sitting, walking, driving, spotting scope, etc). Specific protocols will be used for each systematic project. Systematic monitoring adds a degree of structure necessary for gathering data on projects where consistency is critical. Again, be sure to follow the motto, "WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT".
A number of systematic projects are supported by Nature Mapping Jackson Hole. Examples of these projects are: Moose Day, Osprey Days, Project Backyard, the Snake River Float and the Gros Ventre Morning. It is important to remember that each project has its own set of protocols which must be followed.