People of SU / Science, Technology and Health

Seattle U/Woodland Park Zoo Urban Carnivore Project Invites Citizen Scientists to Report Critter Sightings

August 12, 2019

Image credit: Mark Jordan

Seattle U biology professor Mark Jordan checks a camera trap in a King County park.

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The next phase of the collaboration between the zoo and Seattle University Associate Professor of Biology Mark Jordan, PhD, has begun with the launch today of a “carnivore spotter” website.

The next phase of the Seattle Urban Carnivore Project, a collaboration between the Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University Associate Professor of Biology Mark Jordan, PhD, has begun with the launch today of a “carnivore spotter” website.

On this site you can report sightings of coyotes, bears and other critters that are making increasing appearances in our urbanized environment.

People of all backgrounds, ages and abilities living in the greater Seattle metropolitan area can contribute to important research by reporting sightings, interactions and vocalizations using the web-based tool, Carnivore Spotter available at www.zoo.org/carnivorespotter.

At the center of the project are terrestrial mammals including black bears, bobcats, cougars or mountain lions, coyotes, red foxes, raccoons and river otters. Although not part of the order Carnivora, opossums are also included in the study.

Carnivore Spotter is part of the Seattle Urban Carnivore Project, a collaborative research project launched in 2018 by Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University scientists to explore how urban carnivores live and interact with people across the greater Seattle area.

“I am very excited about this collaboration between Seattle University and Woodland Park Zoo because it provides a great opportunity to train our students in authentic scientific research,” Jordan says. “By involving the zoo and community members, the project takes this research out of the ivory tower and puts it directly in the hands of the people who stand to benefit the most from our findings related to coexisting with carnivores.”

The Seattle Urban Carnivore Project is currently collecting image data using dozens of remote cameras deployed throughout a range of urban and rural locations across greater Seattle. Carnivore Spotter will complement data retrieved from the cameras including how they’re interacting with people and informing strategies that can be applied to conflict “hot spots.”

The Carnivore Spotter tool lets users submit information about the species and number of animals seen, the date, time, location of sightings (via phone GPS or “select on map”) and more. Users are encouraged to upload not only photos and videos but also audio clips of the sightings. The intuitive interface is easy to navigate and provides helpful identification resources for each species. Users can also explore the sightings that other participants have contributed, filtering by the type of carnivore, the neighborhood or the dates and time of day to see if patterns can be found.

“We’re so excited to have our community contribute to this important research. Conservation can’t happen without engaging people. Through the mobile-friendly Carnivore Spotter tool, the citizens of the greater Seattle region can help us expand our knowledge of urban carnivores and promote coexistence,” says Robert Long, PhD, director of Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest Program and a carnivore research ecologist.

The Seattle Urban Carnivore Project is part of a multi-city research effort, the Urban Wildlife Information Network, coordinated by Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute. The Network is a partnership of researchers across the country who use standardized wildlife-monitoring protocols to understand the ecology and behavior of urban wildlife species. By pooling data across multiple North American cities, the network is seeking to understand why animals in different cities behave the way they do and what patterns hold true around the world. 

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