xiv. Skandobs – The Scandinavian predator tracking system

Interaction Type public->government->public
Trigger Event Collection of observations for lynx, wolverine, brown bear and wolf which can be used by agencies in Scandinavia to increase their knowledge about where species live and how large populations are in Scandinavia.
Domain Citizen contribution to the Skandobs database. The Skandobs database is jointly managed by Rovdata Norway and the Swedish EPA.
Organisation Rovdata is an independent part of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
Actors Rovdata in Norway and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
Data sets in use Citizens are responsible for submitting their observations to Skandobs. A Google maps based visualisation tool is also available to allow map-based visualisation of the Skandobs database.
Process Using either smartphone applications or the Skandobs website contributors can submit their observations (geographical data is required with each observation). Anonymous submissions are not allowed. All contributors who wish to see their contributions listed on the website and stored in the Skandobs database must register on the website.
Feedback The number of observations in the database is updated every 15 minutes on the website. A table provides summary information of the total number of observations, this year’s observations, and this month’s observations. League tables of the top contributors by individual submissions and top contributors by municipality.
Goal There is a need in Scandinavia to collect observations for lynx, wolverine, brown bear and wolf which can be used by agencies in Scandinavia to increase their knowledge about where species live and how large populations are in Scandinavia.
Side effects Increasing expectations from NGOs, media, and the public who want information on numbers and distribution of carnivore populations in their countries.
Contact Point

There is a need in Scandinavia to collect observations for lynx, wolverine, brown bear and wolf which can be used by agencies in Scandinavia to increase their knowledge about where species live and how large populations are in Scandinavia. There is now new legislation with International conventions and directives driving this requirement. However, monitoring is both complicated and expensive for many reasons. It is simply not possible for either ROVDATA or the Swedish EPA to have the resources required to provide monitoring of these species in Scandinavia. One of the reasons is the geographical size of the area under observation. Citizen can make contributions to the Skandobs database which is jointly maintained by two national agencies. Rovdata is an independent part of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) with its own board and staff. Rovdata provide monitoring data and population numbers for lynx, wolverine, brown bear, wolf and golden eagles to the Norwegian public, media and management authorities. Rovdata is responsible to convey and develop the national monitoring program for large carnivores. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is the agency in Sweden who has an overview of how the environment is doing, how the environmental work goes and has the task of coordinating the work of Sweden’s environmental objectives. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is also central authority for hunting and wildlife management issues.

In January 2017 there were more than 20,000 registered users of the report system Skandobs, presenting a greater growth in the Swedish territory. There were about 7800 Norwegian registered users and about 12,500 registered users from Sweden. More than 16,000 of them have been registered via the Smartphone Scan Folder.

 

In the last 7 years the system has received more than 14,000 reports of large carnivores, counting more than 3,000 observations from July 2016 until January 2017. More observations have been recorded in the Swedish territory which counts about 9,500 reports against approximately 4600 in Norway. However this is an expected bias since there are more people and carnivores in the Swedish territory.

There is higher priority placed on certain predator sightings. For these observations it is desirable that the sightings are also reported by telephone to the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) if the observation is made in Norway or the County Administrative Board if the observation is made in Sweden. The higher priority sightings include: cubs or adult with cubs; wolves outside the normal distribution range; or any dead predators. In those cases the authorities follow up the volunteers’ reports and investigate the observation in the field. When important observations are entered into Skandobs, a warning will automatically be issued to the nearest field staff. In order for it to be possible to conduct closer field surveys, the volunteers are advised to report their observations as soon as possible.  Moreover, Skandobs enables the volunteers to train themselves so to submit better observations. For example if a volunteer is unsure about the type of animal that has left a particular trace, s/he can read relative details (available on the website) and study traces of species.

The projects’ mission is to have the best knowledge of the big predators. Precise data is a prerequisite for sound management of the predators. To this end, the volunteers are asked to contribute a variety observations. They can submit geospatial timestamped observation of, for example, lynx, brown bear, wolverine or wolf, or by delivering hair and carnivore’s excrement for DNA analysis as these type of data provide important information about the species and leads to the most precise recordings. Notifications about predators, traces and submission of hair and dirt samples are an important part of the surveillance of the large predators in the region. The volunteers are also advised, when taking pictures of carnivorous tracks, be make sure that they have included something in the picture that shows the size of the track (e.g. a matchbox).

Citizens can submit their observations to Skandobs at any time. They can submit observations using iPhone or Android smartphone applications or through the Skandobs website. The Skandobs database is made available for download via a search interface on the website. A Google maps based visualisation tool is also available to allow map-based visualisation of the Skandobs database.

Observations which are submitted to the website are subjected to internal validation. These observations are reviewed by SNO / County Administrative Board and when validation is completed they are assigned a validation status which appears in the list of observations. Observations rated by SNO / County Administrative Board will also be added to ROVBASE which is the primary database for national population monitoring data in Norway and Sweden. Observations which are not rated by SNO / County Administrative Board will not be added to ROVBASE. All of the observations which are submitted must be quality assured and if they are validate they are reused in other contexts. The website stresses that it is very important that the observations contain the highest level of detail possible. The addition of photographs and additional information is encouraged. Contributors are reminded that the observations in Skandobs is primary data. The number of observations in the database is updated every 15 minutes on the website. A table provides summary information of the total number of observations, this year’s observations, and this month’s observations. Observation totals are provided for wolves, bears, wolverines, and lynx.

Collecting reliable observations on these carnivore populations help to inform management objectives including long-term conservation and population-level management. The public’s observations are a very important contribution to the determination of the stock numbers for the large predators in Scandinavia. Such observations are among other things taken into use by management, the public and the media

The openness of Skandobs and the public’s opportunity to share observations helps increase the level of knowledge about large carnivores in Scandinavia. People are allowed to share their observations of carnivores and access other people’s observations and pictures of animals, footprints and other traces that they leave behind. As most of the pictures capture the animals in their natural environment give a unique insight into what the predators do in the woods and fields. There is also a great photo of tracks and traces of the species, which can be of great help to many who are unsure whether the traces they have seen may be from some of the great predators.

 

Main Lessons

  • The number of observations in the database is updated every 15 minutes on the website. A table provides summary information of the total number of observations, this year’s observations, and this month’s observations. Observation totals are provided for wolves, bears, wolverines, and lynx.
  • Sweden and Norway currently merge monitoring and inventory systems and Skandobs helps to foster greater involvement of the public in this monitoring.
  • Observations submitted are encouraged to contain the highest level of detail possible. This can include photographic evidence and/or video/sound.
  • There are concerns about the potential bias in the observational data. For example because there is greater population density in Southern Sweden there will be more observations there yet there will be far less in Northern Sweden. This problem of inhomogeneous distribution of observations/observers is a problem in citizen science and VGI.
  • Through Skandobs both volunteers and the general public increase their awareness about the life and natural habitat of large carnivores.

 

References:

EPA Network Workshop – Citizen Science 12 -13 March 2013

Increasing involvement of the public in large-scale monitoring of large carnivores across Scandinavia – Eva Thörnelöf, SEPA Sweden

http://epanet.ew.eea.europa.eu/ad-hoc-meetings/epa-network-workshop-citizen-science-12-13-march-2013/eva-thornelof_-sepa-sweden.pdf

 

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