The Coast News Group
Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast NewsRancho Santa Fe

Volunteers sought to try wildlife field survey app

CARLSBAD — Wildlife road kill sighting — there’s an app for that. 

The Center for Natural Lands Management and Preserve Calavera are putting out a call for volunteers to try a new wildlife field survey phone application. The only requirement is for volunteers to own a smart phone.

Once volunteers are recruited a brief training session will be held and a limited number of phone apps developed by Ditty Labs will be distributed.

“It has only been out for a couple of weeks,” Markus Spiegelberg, San Diego County regional preserve manager, said. “Three of us are using it right now. Investment could make its use companywide and statewide, including California and Washington.”

The immediate goal is to put the new app through a trial run and weigh whether the data collection device is something the Center for Natural Lands Management wants to invest in and tweak to their needs.

The field survey app currently has GPS and mapping capabilities that can pinpoint where wildlife and road kill is sited. The user then adds additional notes to describe the species and sighting details.

The long-range goal is to develop a method for volunteers to cohesively collect data and store it in one place.

Currently a variety of techniques are used to gather data. They vary from pencil and paper records to highly technical tabulations. The wide range of data collection methods makes translating records into comparable entries costly and time consuming.

“The idea is we’ll have the ability to collect data in a single depository center that can be merged together simply,” Spiegelberg said.

Accurate data is key to documenting changes in animal populations and determining the best interventions to aid animal survival.

Preserve Calavera is particularly interested in collecting data on wildlife road kill.

Ongoing development interrupts animal corridors, especially around roadways. When animals and traffic clash this causes hazardous situations for drivers and life or death consequences for animals.

“It’s a huge safety issue with people driving along and having to swerve to avoid (the animals),” Diane Nygaard, founder and president of Preserve Calavera, said. “It’s a survival issue for wildlife.”

Adaptive management solutions can be as easy as adding fencing to detour where animals cross or adding a platform that allows critters to shimmy over hazards.

The first step is identifying where there is a problem by collecting a mass of accurate data.

“The city has a contract for picking up road kill, but they don’t record the species and where it was picked up,” Nygaard said. “With a lot of people collecting information when they see road kill, over time we’ll have useful information.”

Next environmental groups work with regional agencies, cities and builders to come up with a solution for the problem and secure project funding.

The process can be lengthy. The results make a lasting difference.

“Once you’ve identified the problem it takes a long time and a lot of effort to make something happen,” Nygaard said.

One recent animal preservation success story is Preserve Calavera’s work with Merkle and Associates builders to design a retrofit of the culvert under El Camino Real near Cannon.

“The existing culvert gets silted in,” Nygaard said. “On the lagoon side water ends up backing up and critters can’t use it.”

The redesigned culvert will include a platform that animals can walk across to avoid rising water. The project is in its design phase now. Fencing will also be added to direct wildlife to the safest crossing.

For more information on the field survey phone application, email [email protected].