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SUNY Plattsburgh Assistant Professor Danielle Garneau Uses Smart Phones to Document Road Kill Sightings

A faculty member in the Center for Earth and Environmental Science never met road kill she didn’t like. Or at least want to acknowledge.

For Assistant Professor Danielle Garneau, whose area of expertise is ecology, road kill provides an opportunity to learn about wildlife and pinpoint migratory patterns, invasive species, predatory patterns and more.

But now she’s found an opportunity to combine her old interest with a new one — the smart phone she purchased in May.

No App for Road Kill

“I got to thinking as I was playing around with these apps that it would be really neat to have a road-kill app so I could document the sightings and findings,” she said.

She searched for just such an app, but couldn’t find one.

Then, a conference she attended in June got Garneau “all jazzed up.” One session had to do with a collaborative research project involving tracking and marking turtles. Another workshop — through EpiCollect.net — taught her about using a smart phone to collect and share data through EpiCollect’s templates and freely hosted project websites, technology developed by educators at Imperial College in London.

“They had had success using apps for mapping the spread of diseases and epidemiology, but I found a use for it for ecology,” Garneau said. “It’s the ultimate citizen science.”

Participants take photos of the road kill, and the app uploads them through EpiCollect, which pinpoints the find on the map. Participants can then update the data to include any descriptors of the animal such as its species; sex; how long the dead animal had been there; if and when it was removed; the weather conditions; and any predators around it.

Wants More Participants Around the World

Garneau hopes to use RoadkillGarneau and other apps for ecological research in the classroom, turning students out into the world to find dead animals, document them and collect the data.

In addition, she hopes others join on their smart phones to upload road-kill data from wherever they are in the state, country and world. She has already received data from across New York, as well as Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado, much of which has come from former students.

For more information or to sign up to be a road kill ranger, contact Garneau at 518-564-4073.

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