Mountain Goat Molts, iNat Photos, and Climate Change

iNat is a great resource for collecting occurrence data, and some are even using it to collect behavioral data, but what about...goat molting data?

That’s exactly what Dr. Katarzyna “Kate” Nowak (@katzyna), a Fellow at The Safina Center, and Dr. Joel Berger,  a Professor at Colorado State University, are attempting with their Mountain Goat Molting Project, on both iNaturalist and CitSci.org. “What we are planning is to explore the relationship between climatic warming and coat shedding in mountain goats across their range and over as many decades as possible,” says Dr. Nowak.

Our project will rely on citizen photography. We are after goat photos that are time and location stamped and clearly show shed phase (can be pre- or post-molt so not limited to molt phase). Ideally, but not required, photo resolution is high (300 dpi), and scanned images from film are of course welcome.

Using software, they will then map the goat’s fur (see above) and determine how much of its winter coat is left. By referencing the dates and locations of each photo, Nowak and Berger can begin to understand the effects of climate change on the mountains’ denizens.  

Kate has already found about eighty usable photos on iNaturalist and will be searching archives at Glacier and Denali National Parks as well as Yukon College more images. And throughout the summer she’ll travel in the Yukon to photograph goats, as citizen science photos from that part of the animal’s range are scarce (see below).

“Behind the project - which I should say we are only just starting - is a transdisciplinary team of people,” explains Dr. Nowak. They are working with Greg Newman from CitSci.org, Kate’s sister Joanna who is a professional photographer, and Shane Richards, an ecological modeler who works for both the Australian government (CSIRO) and the University of Tasmania.

While this project has just begun, and might seem a bit niche at first glance, Kate says it’s just the first step towards a goal of “[engaging] people on the topic of climate change in a new way and [to] also evaluate if we can track change over time using citizen photography.”

It’s awesome to see everyone out there finding new and innovative uses of iNaturalist, so if you would like to support this project, please submit your photos of Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus) to iNaturalist and license them for Creative Commons usage, and they will show up in the Mountain Goat Molt Project.  

- by Tony Iwane


- The Mountain Goat Molt project is supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

- Top photo by Steve Wagner, CC BY-NC. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/8803799.

- If you or someone you know is utilizing iNaturalist in a creative way, definitely share in the comments below!

Posted by tiwane tiwane, May 30, 2018 05:52 PM

Comments

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What a cool example of building on the information captured by iNaturalist & photos for further analysis! I wish I had photos of mountain goats to contribute!

Posted by carrieseltzer 24 days ago (Flag)

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