Using historical citizen science to understand wildlife in the longleaf pine ecosystem
Museum records and formal scientific information are essential, but not always sufficient, to adequately document the historical distribution, abundance, and cultural traditions associated with wildlife species. Though we know many species of conservation concern associated with the longleaf pine ecosystem, including gopher tortoises, southeastern pocket gophers, and indigo snakes, have declined alarmingly over the last 100 years, historical information on their distribution and abundance within this range is limited. Similarly, little scientific evidence is available for how or whether populations of these and other species such as northern bobwhite quail respond to longleaf pine restoration efforts on public and private lands. Such information does exist, however, in the observations and memories of non-expert area residents such as hunters and private landowners. This kind of firsthand knowledge is a largely untapped source of wildlife information. In an attempt to record it, we have been interviewing longstanding area residents and natural resource professionals about historical occurrence of longleaf-associated wildlife species in Alabama and adjacent areas. In this poster, we report on the data obtained from these interviews as well as how it will be used to inform wildlife management efforts for species of concern. Our research is ongoing, and we are currently recruiting members of the public to participate as interviewees in is this unique approach to wildlife management through historical citizen science.