Photos from field cameras along the Navajo Creek on Trinity's campus, showing wood ducks and raccoons, just a small sample of the diversity seen in our suburban landscape.
How much wildlife could there be on a college campus in a suburb of Chicago? Well, quite a lot actually. Efforts to catalog and understand biodiversity on our campus have been ramping up. Field cameras were first launched around campus in the fall of 2015 as part of a Conservation Biology class, and students have been working on the project since then both as independent research projects and as part of their coursework.
Yes, we see a lot of common species of the suburban landscape, such as raccoons and squirrels. However, we can see them in unique ways, such as the raccoons gathering at night to feed on stream invertebrates. We also see species that tend to be more timid, such as the woods ducks. In my many walks along the Trinity Trail that follows Navajo Creek, I've never seen a wood duck with my own two eyes. However, we know they are frequent visitors based on how often we see them in our photographs.
These field cameras are wonderful, but they generate a lot of data! That's why we are working on an effort to get help in looking at all of these photographs. The Zooniverse website hosts various citizen science efforts, which allow anyone willing to put in some time and effort to help out with scientific projects, many of which are analyzing photographic data.
I've just started putting together a project through their website, and when it's ready, I'll be sharing the link so that you can share in our efforts as well. I'm excited about getting the broader community involved in this effort. Not only does it help our scientific endeavor, but it's also a way to get to know the local wildlife better and gain a deeper sense of place.
Here's our Zooniverse project in progress
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I'm a biology professor at Trinity Christian College. I'll be using this page to share interesting stories related to ecology and conservation at Trinity and in the Chicago area (although I might be tempted to expand my geographic focus upon occasion).