Thursday, March 10, 2011

State Museum Camera Trap Photos Online

A New York State Museum scientist has collaborated with Smithsonian colleagues to make more than 202,000 wildlife photos available to the public for the first time through a new searchable website called Smithsonian Wild.

The new website allows the public to see exactly what scientists see in their research — photos of wildlife captured at close range. Three of the nine photo sets available on the site come from research in the Adirondacks and other locations, conducted by Dr. Roland Kays, the State Museum’s curator of mammals. The site operates off of a database that was created as part of Kays’ National Science Foundation funded research.

The images were taken through camera traps – automated cameras triggered by motion sensors. Left in natural areas to photograph whatever passes in front of them, the cameras record the diversity and often the behavior of animals around the world. Studying animals in the wild can be challenging, especially if it involves a rare or elusive species like the giant panda or the clouded leopard, where camera traps have provided critical data as well as amazing photos.

All of the photos are untouched and appear exactly as they did when they were taken from the cameras. The current website includes both still photos and video clips of more than 200 species of mammals and birds from seven projects conducted by Smithsonian researchers and their colleagues. The site provides links through social media such as Flickr, Twitter and Facebook to allow the public to share and comment on the photos. The site also provides reference links from each photo to corresponding species pages at the Encyclopedia of Life, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s own “North American Mammals” page, which Kays also collaborated on.

Further information also is available in a “Museum Moment” YouTube video featuring Kays on the State Museum website.

The new photo website is part of the Smithsonian’s “Web 2.0” initiative to make research conducted by Smithsonian scientists and their colleagues more accessible to the public. The primary goal of this initial effort is to share the unique information collected around the world by these cameras with the broader public, giving them a better sense not only of the diversity of wildlife that exists, but also of the diversity of wildlife research at the Smithsonian.

The New York State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Started in 1836, the Museum has the longest continuously operating state natural history research and collection survey in the United States.

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