26 July 2017 – 17 June 2017 saw the start of Germany’s first-ever wolf citizen science expedition, organised by Biosphere Expeditions in cooperation with the Wolfsbüro (wolf bureau) of the state environment ministry NLWKN. Participants from all over the world searched for wolf sign for a month. The results in terms of signs found, data gathered and media interest exceeded all expectations of the expedition’s organisers.
A total of 49 citizen scientists took part in the expedition from 17 June to 21 July 2017, supporting the state’s official wolf monitoring programme with four groups of one week each. Most of the participants came from Germany, its neighbouring countries and the UK. Some even came from as far away as North America, Singapore and Australia.
After two weeks of intensive training, citizen scientists went into the field in small groups of two to four persons to search for wolf signs. In total 1,100 km were covered on public footpaths and bridleways, which is where wolves also like to walk, patrol and mark their territories. All signs found were recorded following the strict scientific protocol of the state’s official wolf monitoring programme. Over the course of four weeks almost 80 wolf scats and as many other wolf signs again were found and passed onto the wolf bureau for further analysis. An expedition report in early 2018 will detail all findings and also where funds provided by the citizen science participants through their expedition contributions went.
Co-organiser of the expedition Peter Schütte says that “the data gathered by our citizen scientists are a valuable addition to official wolf monitoring efforts and a great way to show support for all the other wolf ambassadors working in our state.” His colleague Kenny Kenner adds that “we alone simply can’t cover large areas. I can just about manage to cover ‘my’ area and ‘my’ wolf pack within. So I am very grateful for the additional help that the expedition provided – in areas where we want to and should know more”.
Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions remarks that “in summary our citizen scientists help on two levels: by collecting valuable scientific data and through financing the project as a whole. Not even we expected the wealth of extra data our expeditioners collected. This shows how much citizen science can achieve in just four weeks and how much it is capable of adding to official wolf monitoring efforts. But of course this does not mean we want to replace or belittle those other efforts. On the contrary. It is only through working together that we will reach our goals. Because the more data we have, the easier it is to come to the right science-based conclusions and develop successful strategies to protect livestock and avoid conflict between wolves and humans. So we are really looking forward to the final results and to repeating the expedition in June/July 2018 again.”
The state’s wolf bureau agrees and also wants to work “cooperatively with partners such as Biosphere Expeditions and individuals who have an interest in the wolf, such as for example hunters, the state’s hunting association, forest- and landowners, shepherds, livestock owners, wolf ambassadors and others. The state of Lower Saxony is glad if people take an interest in the wolf and contribute their skills and time to monitoring efforts, as sound scientific data are the prerequisite for reducing conflict with this predator.”
Wolf ambassador Schütte adds that “if wolves are to have a future in Lower Saxony, then local people must be kept in the loop about their whereabouts and behaviour so that conflict can be reduced or avoided altogether. Our project contributes significantly towards this ultimate goal of wolves and humans living side by side in Germany.”
Here’s a collection of photos from the expedition: