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Camera traps, sometimes called trail cams, are (mostly) weather-proof, motion sensitive cameras that can be placed outdoors for long periods of time. They are incredibly useful tools for scientists. First, they decrease the amount of effort expended to get results. If I were to spend as much time in the field as my cameras do, I would spend months at a time in a single location or have an army of field assistants doing so. With camera traps, I can have a life and my family gets to see me on a fairly regular basis. Second, camera traps reduce my impact on the #wildlife I study. Most animals do not even realize the cameras are there and go about their regular lives without being disturbed. We can achieve a similar effect by sitting it blinds but see about about effort-to-results ratio. Additionally, we always worry that we can change the subjects behavior even when we are well hidden. Next, camera traps allow me to cover more ground than I could if I had to sit in a blind for weeks at a time to get the same data (kinda a repeat of a?). I have seven field sites that span approximately 400 miles it would take me years to manually gather as much data as I do in a single season with camera traps. Finally, camera traps are considered non-invasive method of sampling wold animals, which is similar to the second point but with an important difference. We not only want our subjects to act naturally, we also care deeply for their well-being. Adding stress can endanger animals if they are just subsisting. I'm sure I'm forgetting some benefits on camera traps though. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below!
Alexis L. Brewer
Doctoral student at The City University of New York studying Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior.