Citizen Science : Join the Annual Deer Survey on April 7th
& the Mini-Workshop for Students!
Volunteer (Adults & High School Students) Coordintor: William Schuster, Black Rock Forest Exeuctive Director
Mini-Workshop Leader: Robert Fuller, Black Rock Forest Volunteer
Details and Arrival Instructions: Will be emailed prior to event to registered participants.
Additional volunteer opportunity: (NO mini-student workshop): Saturday, April 21.
Mini-Workshop for Students and Volunteer Orientation:
Volunteers will have an orientation session with Executive Director William Schuster. Students/Scouts will participate in a mini-workshop with Black Rock Forest Volunteer Robert Fuller to learn survey and sampling techniques, use of a compass and how to walk a transect. We welcome elementary-aged students (5+) in the mini-workshop, high school students and adults may join the volunteer orientation.
Sampling for Students and Scouts: What to Expect! - a write-up by Robert Fuller
(This write-up may be of interest to all who participate in the Annual Survey, not just the students.)
Deer Survey Background:
By Bob Fuller, Black Rock Forest volunteer
Join the Black Rock Forest Annual Deer Survey. Ready for something fun, exciting, different, and interesting? Black Rock Forest’s Annual Deer Survey is that special opportunity to be a citizen scientist. Each year, Forest staff & scientists estimate the size of the deer herd through winter tracking and deer counts. By using herd size estimates from the deer count and winter tracking along with information from the fall deer hunt Forest staff work to keep their deer herd and the forest healthy. When there are too many deer the natural understory vegetation is eaten away, there are no wildflowers or sapling trees, and invasive plants take over. Additionally, the deer suffer from malnutrition and disease.
The survey is conducted via a deer pellet count that uses systematic sampling (a form of statistics) to estimate the number of deer droppings in the forest. The number of deer is then estimated from the number of droppings. Systematic sampling is used as it would be impossible to count every deer pellet pile but you can count samples that are representative of the entire forest.
It’s actually very simple. You count the number of deer pellet piles in 4’ circular segments (50 square feet) of the forest floor (the samples) that are systematically located across all of the forest’s land. Participants count the number of deer pellet piles in each sample while walking parallel paths that are about a mile long. Every 100’ you stop and count the pellet piles in the 4’ radius circle but only in the circle. The key to a good count is to have lots of folks go out to survey and get lots of samples.
The next step is to estimate the total number of deer pellet piles in the forest from the samples that were counted. As an example, if 100 groups go out in a one square mile section of the forest and survey 50 samples each (5,000 samples, 50 square feet each = 250,000 square feet) they will have sampled about 1% of the total amount of land being surveyed. If the groups counted a total of 500 pellet piles in their samples you can estimate that there are 50,000 dropping piles in that square mile.
Now that you know how many dropping piles there are you can estimate the number of deer. The key is to know that deer, on average, produce 25 piles of deer pellets/day over the winter season (from mid-November when the leaves stop dropping until the survey days). That’s almost 4000 piles of droppings for every deer during the winter. Divide the 50,000 pellet piles in the example by the 4000 piles/deer and you get about 12 – 13 deer/square mile.
You don’t have to be experienced, you don’t have to follow the compass bearing exactly, and the samples don’t have to be exactly 100’ apart to get good data. Children up through experienced hikers can participate and all you have to do is to count only the pellet piles in your samples, carefully record the data, and have fun.
Those of us who have done this before have had a great time and many of us hope to do this again. I hope that you to will choose to have a fun, interesting, and rewarding day in the woods helping with the 2018 deer pellet counts.
Inquiries - Contact Brienne Cliadakis, Assistant Director of Development & Outreach