Semester of Graduation

Fall 2017

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

The Department of Environmental Sciences

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Foxes are timid yet resourceful animals that are integrated into many urban environments. Because they are elusive, collecting information about the number of urban foxes, their diet and spatial distribution, their interactions with the ecological community in their urban habitat, as well as residents’ response to them, is difficult. Involving stakeholders to participate in the data collection on wildlife via citizen science on social media is one way to overcome this complication, while simultaneously engaging residents in the ecology happening around them. Therefore, we used social media as the platform to engage the public to document and map the foxes in Baton Rouge. Local residents were asked to post sightings and/or photographs of foxes they observed, with the location, onto our Facebook Page at Fox Finders of Baton Rouge, on Twitter at @FoxFindersBR, or on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #findfoxlsu. This information was added onto an ArcGIS story map. Types of public responses and engagement over time were also measured. The authors clarified people’s misconceptions about foxes when questions were asked on our Facebook Page. On-site observations and trail cameras were also used in common locations to monitor the urban foxes, and the footage was shared on our page as well.

While we received only one fox sighting via Instagram and Twitter each, our Facebook Page generated 1132 “likes” and an average of 14% Page Engagement Rate during the first eight months. Along with Baton Rouge, people from 384 different cities and 16 countries have engaged with the page. In addition, 180 red fox sightings—including 61 photographs and eight videos—were submitted, with eight of the sightings coming from areas surrounding the city—outside the study area. From the feedback we have received on our Facebook Page, our research model successfully promoted citizen science by easily connecting residents to science, enabling them to engage with our team and local residents directly to learn about the wildlife around them, documenting and mapping many local urban foxes, and reducing misinformation about urban foxes.

Date

11-16-2017

Committee Chair

Armbrust, Kevin

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