Updated: Dec 1, 2020
By Ryan Jacques, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
iNaturalist may be unfamiliar to many, but this worldwide project gives anyone who wants to be a citizen scientist a place to record and organize environmental observations and share those valuable observations with a community of other nature enthusiasts and scientists.
The Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership (WYFP) created a project within iNaturalist, Wisconsin’s Young Forests, that lets landowners collect data specific to young forest habitat in Wisconsin. By joining and submitting your observations, you can help the WYFP understand the impacts that management actions have on the plants and animals living on your property, which will allow us to fine-tune and improve future management approaches.
On June 16, 2018, the WYFP hosted a workshop at Kemp Natural Resources Station in Woodruff to kick off the iNaturalist project. Twenty private landowners from the northern counties learned how to monitor wildlife by using iNaturalist to identify, organize, and report their observations.
Speakers included Anna Buckardt (Masters candidate, University of Maine), Ryan Jacques (WI DNR), Randee Smith (WYFP coordinator), and Callie Bertsch (American Bird Conservancy). Presentation topics included the use and function of iNaturalist, ways to survey and monitor wildlife on the property level, young forest habitat types, how the WYFP works, and potential funding opportunities for creating habitat through partners such as NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.
Casts of wildlife tracks and a variety of traps, furs, trail cameras, guide books, and identification references were also available so participants could sample different resources and discover which wildlife species they might encounter while monitoring their land.
The 20 people attending the workshop represented 13 different private land ownerships. The workshop drew in landowners from across northern Wisconsin who had completed young forest management; who were in the process of conducting habitat work to create young forest; or who wanted to find out more about managing for young forest.
Landowners who had completed management through the WYFP shared their experiences of applying for funding as well as the results of their management efforts. They unanimously expressed how easy the application process was, thanks to Callie Bertsch and the WYFP staff. Landowners just starting to manage and those who were getting management done were relieved to hear how quickly the vegetation grew back on managed sites, and how a variety of wildlife sought out the regrowing young forest habitat.
After lunch, participants took a field trip to the Lake Tomahawk Demonstration Area in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. Anna Buckardt and her volunteers set up a mist net in a stand of seven- to eight-year-old aspen. While waiting for the net to capture birds, Anna led a nature walk through the young aspen stand to gather data using the iNaturalist app. Participants were impressed by the power of iNaturalist, especially the way the app suggested identification options when a picture was added with the observation.
Participants spotted a variety of birds, including eastern towhee, red-eyed vireo, rose-breasted grosbeak, and veery. They also identified plants associated with young forests by using identification books and the iNaturalist app. The mist net caught a chestnut-sided warbler, letting folks see this colorful bird up close and ask questions about the specific data that researchers collected during the capture process.
Overall, the workshop was a very successful coming together of partners which gave landowners an enjoyable day full of worthwhile information and gratifying outdoor experiences. The workshop’s success stems from the hard work and determination of Randee Smith and the support and guidance of Jamie Nack (UW-Extension Senior Wildlife Outreach Specialist), ABC’s National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant (which provided lunch and beverages), Wisconsin DNR staff for providing equipment and resources, and the University of Maine and Anna Buckardt for support and the mist-netting demonstration.
Landowners should be on the lookout for future workshops put on by the WYFP for folks interested in managing their properties to help wildlife.