Technology can turn nature lovers into scientists

A master’s student at the University of B.C. Okanagan wants to compare the historic range of bobcats and lynx against their modern movements – and nature lovers are going to help him do it.

The Vancouver Sun interviewed student T.J. Gooliaff earlier this month, who explained he wants to see how the two big cat species may have responded to climate change.

“We are trying to figure out if either species has shifted its range in response to changes in snowfall and snow melt,” he said. “Lynx are well-adapted for deep snow with large, snowshoe-like paws,” he said. “But with earlier springs and lower snow levels, I suspect the bobcat range has moved north and into higher elevations.”

Historical data will be gleaned largely from hunting and trap line records, but because of mobile technology, Gooliaff will be able to access a greater degree of information than ever before.

“To form a snapshot of the current range of each animal, the researchers are asking the public to send in current photographs of bobcats and lynx along with the date and detailed information on the location of the animal,” noted the Sun. “Imagesfrom trail cameras and even holiday snapshots are potentially useful.”

Most smart phones – and even some amateur and professional DSLR cameras – have built in GPS capabilities, and when paired with information like local landmarks or street addresses, the researchers can pinpoint the location and elevation of the cats on a technical map.

Any photos (of any quality) and details about where and when the photo was taken can be forwarded to

The Fur-Bearers are excited to see how this kind of citizen science can provide researchers with new insights and data – and what that may mean for policy and theories about wildlife in the future.

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