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A Window into the Wild

Originally appears in the Summer 2010 issue

“Wow, forests aren’t as scary as they look in movies!”          -Wes, 5th grade

“If a Gray fox eats me, my mom will be really upset with you!”       -Dakota, 5th grade

For years, research scientists, wildlife managers, and conservation organizations around the world have used remote cameras to document the presence of species such as jaguars, rhinos, snow leopards and tigers.  This enabled them to develop species inventories, explore questions about animal behavior, and estimate population density of target species1-3.  Closer to home, scientists in Minnesota use remote cameras to monitor Canada lynx7. In Montana, these cameras are used to discover new wolverine habitats8.  Even deer hunters now use them to find good hunting locations.

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Dawn Tanner is a PhD candidate in the Conservation Biology Program at the University of Minnesota. Working in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN Project WILD), Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, Afton-Lakeland Elementary, and Afton State Park, she created the Taking Action Opportunities (TAO) curriculum that makes use of remote cameras for environmental education.  To learn more about the curriculum, visit

She would like to thank the students, teachers and PTA at Afton-Lakeland Elementary for their inspiration and support, along with the partner organizations mentioned above, plus Gander Mountain, Stillwater Area Schools, Bell Museum of Natural History, and Minnesota Trappers. Chris Wemmer provided advice about working with remote cameras and through his blog, I met teachers across the country, and got a better idea of the questions they had as they prepared to install cameras in their schoolyards.