Wildlife management agencies are tasked with balancing problems of wildlife overabundance (e.g. damage to agriculture, nuisance) with problems of scarcity (e.g. risk of extinction, loss of ecosystem services) and citizens’ desires for hunting opportunities, wildlife viewing, and other wildlife-associated values. Population management decisions generally involve three steps: 1) determination of a population goal for the species based on scientific and public input, 2) estimation of population distribution, size and projected growth, and 3) establishment of population manipulation (most frequently a hunting quota or conservation target) designed to align population sizes with management goals.
Wildlife distributions, in turn, are constrained by habitat preferences that vary strongly both within (i.e. phenology) and across years (i.e. land cover change). Vegetation type, proportion, and spatial pattern provide measures of the availability of food, water, cover and protection for both herbivores and their predators. Seasonal dynamics of vegetation cover and forage availability may also influence wildlife movements and distributions. Timing of greening for both natural and agricultural vegetation correlates with the availability of cover and food for a number of wildlife species, especially those that inhabit human-modified landscapes.
This study will utilize citizen-classified [link to snapshot wisconsin website, modeled on http://www.snapshotserengeti.org/] trailcam photographs deployed by the Wisconsin DNR in conjunction with Landsat-derived measures of habitat type distributions, as well as MODIS-derived temporally-dense measurements of greenness, environmental productivity and phenology to assess:
- Spatio-temporal occupancy patterns and detection rates of wildlife
- Trends in populations of target species
- Influence of habitat structure, composition and seasonality on vital demographic rates of target wildlife populations.