County of Marin - News Releases - Wildlife Photos 091714

For Immediate Release
September 17, 2014

County Joins Wildlife Monitoring Program

International campaign to include photos from County parks and preserves

San Rafael, CA – Federal, state, and county biologists are joining forces to test the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI) in Marin County. Approximately 100 wildlife cameras will be installed through eight parks and preserves for a 3-4 month trial period designed to improve our understanding of local wildlife.

Developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society of London, the WPI combines photos from wildlife cameras with other environmental data to understand how animals move through and use large landscapes. The technique has been used with great success in habitats as varied as Mongolian grasslands, Sumatran rainforests, and Sonoma County oak woodlands.  

In late September, a regional pilot project will begin to determine whether this method can help Marin biologists better understand animal populations in the network of federal, state, and county parks along the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor. The project is directed by independent wildlife biologist Susan Townsend with support from the California State Parks, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Marin County Parks, Marin Municipal Water District, and Point Reyes National Seashore.

“We’re very eager to compare this tool to our more traditional ways of studying wildlife,” said Marin County Parks Resource Specialist Sam Abercrombie. “For many years, independent researchers and recreationists have provided us with intriguing photos of mountain lions, coyotes and other wildlife. These random pictures excite the public but give us little information about overall populations. The WPI’s systematic approach will allow us use pictures as an analytic tool. We are particularly interested in how well smaller neighborhood preserves like French Ranch connect to the larger preserves and parks west of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.”

The pilot will be rolled out in two phases with the first focusing on refining technical details and solidifying the inter-agency partnership. Phase Two will introduce a public participation component. “This is a very ambitious project,” said MMWD biologist Janet Klein. “Without support from volunteers and other wildlife researchers, we will have a hard time maintaining the wildlife cameras long enough to compile the data we need to help us address wildlife needs in rapidly changing environments. Citizen Scientists will be key to this project’s long term success.”

Project photos will be shared via social media outlets and project webpages as they become available. Preliminary results will be on display at the Marin Wildlife Discover Day on October 25 at Children’s Island at the Marin County Civic Center. To request information on how to join the Citizen Science effort, please contact


Sam Abercrombie
Project Coordinator
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2128
Email: Sam Abercrombie
Marin County Parks website