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FGCU faculty, students install cameras to see if an empty campus makes for more wildlife

Florida Gulf Coast University students and faculty are capturing the sights and sounds of campus creatures.

They’re working to find out if there is more wildlife activity or if humans are just noticing more animals with all of the people gone.

They may not be students or professors, but these FGCU residents call the campus home, too.

“Basically we’re looking at how wildlife responds to the lack of people,” said Dr. Serge Thomas, an associate professor at The Water School at FGCU.

To do this experiment, students and faculty installed cameras and audio recorders in different spots around the university.

“I’m struggling with whether or not we’ve really got more wildlife and the wildlife behavior has changed, or whether the human behavior is changed,” said Dr. Win Everham, an ecology and environmental studies teacher at FGCU.

To find out more, the team has eyes on the ground and in the sky.

“We can consistently have the same pictures over and over and we were able to pick up turtles and anhinga, you know, those birds,” Thomas said.

“One of the goals of the project, when we are done, as we come back into this post-pandemic world, is figuring out, hopefully, what our impacts are on the wildlife,” said graduate student Daniel Canfield.

“If we can kind of take that away from this after all of this is over, just being able to appreciate our wildlife more and respect our wildlife more, it can definitely bounce back,” said undergraduate student Samantha Schwippert.

Just like what’s happening with sea turtles right now on our beaches, fewer people means less interference. And as our community bounces back, our counterparts can too.

The students and faculty installed the cameras and recorders on campus about three weeks ago.

The goal is to leave them up until the university returns to normal. Then, they will keep track of how many people come back and if there’s a drop in wildlife activity.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Briana Harvath
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