article / 25 November 2020

Learning Resources: Exploring Species Interactions with Snapshot Serengeti

WILDLABS member Meredith Palmer shared this great course module based around Snapshot Serengeti camera trap data, and developed for university biology courses. This material is ideal for introductory level biology courses for non-majors, and can easily be adapted to provide authentic hypothesis testing and data analysis experience to biology majors, as well. These materials are useful for professors looking for adaptable resources for online biology courses, but the resources may also be useful and interesting for those who are exploring conservation tech career options and want to learn more about camera trap studies. Download these course resources here.

Course Resources Overview

Authentic learning experiences are a valuable way for students to gain an in-depth understanding of the scientific process. However, implementing such experiences in large enrollment courses can be challenging. Here, we present a community ecology lab module that uses data from a long-term camera trap study to allow students to design and conduct their own scientific inquiries. "Snapshot Serengeti" is a 10+ year wildlife monitoring survey in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Over 200 camera traps continuously collect fine-scale spatial and temporal data on the dynamics of ~50 animal species. The charismatic subject matter (large African animals) engages students, encouraging excitement about the topic, while the ample amount of processed data enables students to conduct real ecological research.

In this lab, students collaborate in all stages of the research process. We present two lab variations: a four-week in-person and five-week remote-learning online option. From this module, students learn to generate testable research questions, produce and interpret graphs, participate in peer review, and communicate their results in both oral and written format.

While originally developed for a 1000-level introduction biology course for non-majors, this material could easily be adapted to provide authentic hypothesis testing and data analysis experience to biology majors. In addition to a greater awareness of community ecology principles, students will come away from this lab with a better understanding of how exploratory research fits into the scientific process and confidence in their own ability to engage in the process of science.

Lesson Learning Goals

Students will:

  • Become familiar with community ecology principles including how species interact with each other and their environment across time and space (learning objectives: species/habitat interactions, interactions within ecosystems, how matter and energy move through ecosystems, how organisms obtain and use matter and energy to grow).
  • Gain an appreciation for African ecology and wildlife conservation issues.
  • Discover new ways to participate in real research through citizen science.
  • Actively engage in all parts of the scientific process by developing their own research inquiry (writing hypotheses and predictions, processing and analyzing data, interpreting and communicating results).
  • Develop appreciation of the iterative process of science.
  • Gain skills in interpretation of data and communication of scientific material.

Lesson Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Engage in meta-cognitive learning.
  • Develop and conduct an authentic scientific inquiry.
  • Generate a testable research question based on observations.
  • Evaluate different methods of visualizing data.
  • Generate and interpret graphs to answer questions.
  • Communicate the results of research and the nature of science in oral and written form.
  • Place exploratory research into a larger context of the scientific process.
  • Participate in citizen science initiatives.
  • Collaborate with peers on a scientific task.

Get These Resources Now

Download the full course resources here.

You can also visit Snapshot Serengeti on Zooniverse here, and read about this and other Zooniverse citizen science projects here on WILDLABS


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