I have had two productive days with Marcus Rowcliffe and Chris Carbone from the ZSL Institute. On Day 1 I gave an hour seminar on our research to about 20 staff and Marcus, Chris and myself had an interesting discussion about our research objectives. There are a lot of staff using camera traps in the RZS and I was interested to see some amasingly challenging research sites including marine camera trapping. The focus of our Day 2 discussions was a workshop with about 12 camera trappers and each gave some very interesting overviews of their challenges. Marcus presented his thoughts on the Random Encounter Model he has developed with his colleagues and how this analysis provides users with a valuable tool for interpreting data. In every presentation similar issues were raised and selection of camera traps and the importance of designing surveys well before launching into field work was a regular theme. DeerCam received some good reviews from users and balancing camera cost with funding resources was a big issue ie do I buy 80 cheap cameras and understand their limitation or do I buy 30 and have good equipment but less robust design ?
There were some interesting information presented on animal behavioural responses to cameras with some excellent footage from Mohammad Farhadinia of Iran showing leopard responses ! Their team has just received a batch of Panthera cameras so we look forward to hearing more about them.
Chris raised the ongoing issues of survey design and how we balance design with robustness of the data, as well as trying to simplify the REM so that it was user friendly to a range of users. We discussed the pros and cons of standard protocols and their was various reviews about how this would work in some countries. The same issues of data capture, coding and storage were widespread.
A key issue for me that was re-emphasised over and over again during this meeting period, was the importance of forming a web site for camera trapping research and the value of fostering greater opportunities for collaboration. In this short time I think we have established very well that Marcus, Chris and our Australian cohort have some great opportunities for joint projects to span the divide of north and south hemisphere projects. I hope this will be a common theme throughout the trip. We have already initiated a project that aims to provide valuable camera trapping tools to our colleagues and I look forward to developing this discussion. Overall I found the meetings very interesting and I hope the process was also useful to the people who attended the meetings. As usual time ran out and I was unable to talk to some of the participants for long enough, but we will resume through cyberspace.