It was such an amazing experience to be a part of something so big. I feel incredibly grateful Bridgewater gave me this opportunity.
We know Bears populate residence halls and classrooms, but what else calls BSU home? That’s the question biology students sought to answer as part of the first nationwide mammal survey.
The students and Associate Professor Caitlin Fisher-Reid placed motion-activated cameras in the woods on Great Hill as part of the groundbreaking Snapshot USA study.
“It was such an amazing experience to be a part of something so big,” said Alex Bebko, ’20, of Westborough. “I feel incredibly grateful Bridgewater gave me this opportunity.”
Snapshot USA is a collaboration of more than 150 scientists who placed and monitored 1,509 cameras at 110 sites across all 50 states. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences organized the project, whose fall 2019 results were recently published in the journal Ecology.
The BSU contingent was surprised by the variety of wildlife photographed on campus, including squirrels, coyotes, fox and fishers. Seeing a fisher is unusual because they roam over a large area.
Studying and cataloging the images resembled a treasure hunt because students never knew what surprises would be waiting in the next photo. The cameras provided a unique peak into nature because many creatures are nocturnal and shy away from humans.
“One image that really sticks out is of a coyote hunting something,” said Sean King, ’21, of Brockton. “We don’t know what it was hunting, but it was clearly in that stance.”
They cannot yet make multi-year conclusions about species and the forest, but Dr. Fisher-Reid plans to maintain the cameras to gather additional data and continue giving undergraduates valuable research experience.
She appreciates BSU’s woods, which eliminate logistical challenges of doing off-campus field work.
“The forest is one of the reasons I came to Bridgewater,” she said. “It’s big enough that we have a lot of things in there. What was most revealing was how many mammals there are. It’s amazing. It’s just this patch of woods in the middle of suburbia.”
In addition to the thrill of discovery, students benefitted from hands-on research. Working on Snapshot USA eased their nerves for their future endeavors.
“This was my first year in research,” said Drew Rezendes, ’22, of Attleboro, who joined the project in 2020. “It just helps me meet some people and gives me more experience in a research group.”
Do you have a BSU story you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.