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143888 - Using community photography to investigate phenology.pdf (1.38 MB)

Using community photography to investigate phenology: A case study of coat molt in the mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) with missing data

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 22:43 authored by Nowak, K, Berger, J, Panikowski, A, Reid, DG, Jacob, AL, Newman, G, Young, NE, Beckmann, JP, Shane RichardsShane Richards

Participatory approaches, such as community photography, can engage the public in questions of societal and scientific interest while helping advance understanding of ecological patterns and processes. We combined data extracted from community-sourced, spatially explicit photographs with research findings from 2018 fieldwork in the Yukon, Canada, to evaluate winter coat molt patterns and phenology in mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), a cold-adapted, alpine mammal. Leveraging the community science portals iNaturalist and CitSci, in less than a year we amassed a database of almost seven hundred unique photographs spanning some 4,500 km between latitudes 37.6°N and 61.1°N from 0 to 4,333 m elevation. Using statistical methods accounting for incomplete data, a common issue in community science datasets, we identified the effects of intrinsic (sex and presence of offspring) and broad environmental (latitude and elevation) factors on molt onset and rate and compared our findings with published data. Shedding occurred over a 3-month period between 29 May and 6 September. Effects of sex and offspring on the timing of molt were consistent between the community-sourced and our Yukon data and with findings on wild mountain goats at a long-term research site in west-central Alberta, Canada. Males molted first, followed by females without offspring (4.4 days later in the coarse-grained, geographically wide community science sample; 29.2 days later in our fine-grained Yukon sample) and lastly females with new kids (6.2; 21.2 days later, respectively). Shedding was later at higher elevations and faster at northern latitudes. Our findings establish a basis for employing community photography to examine broad-scale questions about the timing of ecological events, as well as sex differences in response to possible climate drivers. In addition, community photography can help inspire public participation in environmental and outdoor activities specifically with reference to iconic wildlife.


Publication title

Ecology and Evolution










School of Natural Sciences


John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

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© 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, ( which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences

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