Biology alum uses cameras to bring wildlife science to the classroom
While attending Mizzou, Stephanie Schuttler, Ph.D ’13, helped local school kids set up motion-sensitive cameras to study animals in their environment. The experience helped her land a prestigious postdoctoral position with eMammal at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Schuttler participated in MU’s ShowMe Nature GK-12, a federally funded program that connects elementary school teachers and students with graduate students doing research in the life sciences. Schuttler helped fifth graders at Two-Mile Prairie use “camera traps,” infrared activated cameras, to study wildlife on the school’s grounds.
“My role was to come in as a scientist and help facilitate the students as they collected and analyzed their data to make it into a research project,” she says. “I helped the kids work with the wildlife camera, enter data, and collect observations.”
Schuttler says her role at eMammal is similar but on a much larger scale. eMammal is a project where citizen scientists work in collaboration with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution and North Carolina State University to document mammals throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
“We currently have wildlife cameras set up throughout North Carolina and the eastern United States to help to answer questions about how mammals respond to people using trails in hunted and non-hunted areas,” she says. “Students will be running cameras on school grounds or in their backyards and will be collecting data that scientists will use. They will have the opportunity to ask and answer questions about animals at their school and be part of a larger project that actually uses the data in real scientific research.”
The photos collected by students will help scientists, like Schuttler, answer questions about mammal distribution and abundance, which they can use for conservation.
She says eMammal, like ShowMe Nature, has the end goal of igniting kids’ interest in science and nature.
“It gives the students a view of wildlife that they would never see and an ability to connect to the animals living in their own backyard,” she says. “Kids love animals, so it is a great way to integrate science and spark student interest in science.”
Schuttler says her experience with MU’s ShowMe Nature gave her the skills she needs to communicate science to general audiences, which is essential in her new position.
“I will be regularly blogging about eMammal and the cool critters that students see on their cameras,” she says.