Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray, Biology; Dr. K. Greg Murray, Biology

Document Type


Event Date



Wetland habitats fill vital environmental roles because they potentially increase wildlife diversity and provide important ecosystem services. During 2015, the Outdoor Discovery Center (ODC) in Holland began reconstructing a wetland from an agricultural field, hoping to improve wildlife diversity. However, this site is near a regional airport, which raised some concern regarding the potential for increased aviation collision risk. In order to evaluate the success of the wetland in attracting wildlife and the potential wildlife hazard to aviation, we analyzed over 600,000 trail cam photos from 4 camera stations operating continuously through the 2015 wetland construction, and for 2 years thereafter. The most common species captured in photos were White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, ducks and geese, a variety of small bird species, and small mammals such as coyotes. Each trail camera took both motion-activated photos and timed photos (taken every 5 minutes regardless of animals present from sunrise to sunset). Motion-activated photos provide important insights into the activity patterns of larger animals, especially at night, whereas timed photos have allowed us to discern distinct seasonal patterns in the abundance of large flocks of potentially “hazardous” animals such as Canada Geese. Results thus far suggest that wildlife has flourished in the new wetland; we have documented 13 species of mammals and 27 species of birds, as well as a few reptiles and amphibians, through trail cam photos. In addition, the camera trap project has provided unique glimpses into the activity patterns of various species. Our wildlife census information has been used to advise wildlife management decisions, and can be used in the future to alert airport personnel to dates and times of potentially heightened risk.


This project funded in part by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway and the Hope College Department of Biology.

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Biology Commons