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Large-scale mammal monitoring: the potential of a citizen science camera-trapping project in the United Kingdom

Hsing, Pen-Yuan and Hill, Russell and Smith, Graham and Bradley, Steven and Green, Sian and Kent, Vivien and Mason, Samantha and Rees, Jonathan and Whittingham, Mark and Cokill, Jim and MammalWeb citizen scientists, and Stephens, Philip (2022) 'Large-scale mammal monitoring: the potential of a citizen science camera-trapping project in the United Kingdom.', Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 3 (4). e12180.

Abstract

1. In light of global biodiversity loss, there is an increasing need for large-scale wildlife monitoring. This is difficult for mammals, since they can be elusive and nocturnal. In the United Kingdom (UK), there is a lack of systematic, widespread mammal monitoring, and a recognised deficiency of data. Innovative new approaches are required. 2. We developed MammalWeb, a portal to enable UK-wide camera-trapping by a network of citizen scientists and partner organisations. MammalWeb citizen scientists contribute to both the collection and classification of camera trap data. Following trials in 2013-17, MammalWeb has grown organically to increase its geographic reach (e.g. ~2,000 sites in Britain). It has so far provided the equivalent of over 340 camera trap-years of wild mammal monitoring, and produced nearly 440,000 classified image sequences and videos, of which, over 180,000 are mammal detections. 3. We describe MammalWeb, its background, its development and the novel approaches we have for participation. We consider the data collected by MammalWeb participants, especially in light of their relevance to the main goals of wildlife monitoring: to provide spatial data, abundance data, and temporal behavioural data. 4. MammalWeb can complement existing approaches to mammal monitoring. Explicit accounting for spatial and temporal patterns in animal activity enables accounting of bias relative to ad hoc observational data. Estimating abundance presents challenges, as for many camera trapping studies, but we discuss the potential of the data as they stand, and opportunities to advance their value for abundance estimation. 5. Challenges remain to MammalWeb’s central missions of enhancing engagement with and connection to nature, and delivering policy-relevant data on Britain's wild mammals. We discuss these challenges and the opportunities they provide for advances in respect of engagement, science and financial security. 6. Our approach reduces administrative burden and increases spatial coverage and, as such, MammalWeb provides a useful addition to existing case studies of citizen science camera trapping program design. We believe MammalWeb is an important step towards fulfilling calls for UK-wide mammal monitoring and our description of challenges identifies an agenda for fulfilling that purpose.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1002/2688-8319.12180
Publisher statement:© 2022 The Authors. Ecological Solutions and Evidence published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:18 August 2022
Date deposited:19 August 2022
Date of first online publication:11 October 2022
Date first made open access:12 October 2022

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