Photos and Phenotypes
Read more about Skyler’s undergraduate honor’s research project:
It started with Dr. Mills asking, “Can you do anything with these?” “These” were 3,400 hare photos from Dr. Jake Ivan’s camera trap study in Colorado. Though researching lynx, he ended up with thousands of hare images as photographic by-catch, and, having no immediate use for them, gave them to Dr. Mills.
More than a year later, the question of using camera trap photos has grown into my undergraduate thesis project: Photos and Phenotypes: Using Non-Invasive Camera Traps to Monitor Seasonal Coat Color Change in Snowshoe Hares. As it turns out, I can collect details on hare coat color phenotype, snow cover, and other factors from these images. I have written the protocol to estimate these characteristics from the photos, and am applying it to 11,000 pictures from Colorado, Montana, and Canada. Once I have my data, I can look for trends in coat color change and color camouflage on a large scale over time and across latitudinal gradients. Camera data is useful for researching hares and any other animal that undergo coat color molts. As a result, this method for collecting data is applicable to many species found around the world.
Image: Skyler’s poster from Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Montana.