Scientific Inquiry Using Wildcam Gorongosa
Gorongosa National Park is a 1,570-square mile protected area in Mozambique. Lion researcher Paola Bouley and her team use motion-detecting trail cameras to learn more about Gorongosa’s lions. Lions are not the only animal captured by these cameras. The photos provide valuable information on a variety of different animals, including numbers to help estimate populations, behaviors, and interactions with other animals. The public has identified animals and collected data from the photos on a citizen science website called WildCam Gorongosa (www.wildcamgorongosa.org). The WildCam Lab is a part of WildCam Gorongosa where you can view trail camera data on a map, and filter and download the data to investigate scientific questions
This activity complements WildCam Gorongosa ( an online citizen science platform for identifying animals photographed by motion-detecting trail cameras in Gorongosa National Park. The WildCam Lab is a part of WildCam Gorongosa where students can view trail camera data on a map, filter, and download the data to investigate scientific questions. In this activity, students will be guided through the development and investigation of a scientific question using trail camera data that they download from the WildCam Lab. Students will begin by viewing trail camera photos, making observations, and brainstorming questions. They will then explore a spreadsheet of trail camera data and identify a testable question that can be investigated using this data set. Based on their question, students will formulate a hypothesis and prediction, which they will test using the available data. The process will require students to select the appropriate variables to analyze and graph data using a spreadsheet program. This activity can be differentiated for students with different levels of prior experience with designing an investigation and analyzing data in spreadsheets.
By and large, many undergraduate students may not be familiar with African ecosystems and it can be challenging for them to develop biologically interesting or reasonable hypotheses to test in this exercise. Pre-lab assignments could provide useful background information, such as having the students read “Gorongosa: Restoring Mozambique’s National Treasure” or review relevant resources on the HHMI BioInteractive website. The 34-min film “The Guide: A Biologist in Gorongosa,” available on the site, provides an excellent introduction to the park.