The students who are part of the Earthwatch team from Hudson High School are developing their own science research projects both in Brazil's Pantanal, and near their high school. They are setting up "track traps" in both places to collect information on animal tracks.

Animal tracks can give us many clues to the environment. They help tell us which animals are in the area and help us estimate how many animals are in the same area. We can also learn about the habitat requirements of animals by finding their tracks in some places and not in others.

The Hudson students plan to use the information that they collect on animal tracks to determine the diversity of animals in each geographic area, and to establish food webs with which they can monitor changes in the health of the ecosystems.

Ready for some research activities of your own? To make a simple "track trap," follow these steps:

To make a simple "track trap," follow these steps:

  1. Identify an area that you think may have wildlife. Obvious places might be near water like a river and pond. You can also pick a place near well-worn trails.
  2. Clear out a piece of land about 4 by 4 feet. The surface needs to be fairly soft and sandy. Rake it free of any tracks. Bait it with fruit, berries, or nuts.
  3. Check the trap every six hours to see what appears. If there are tracks, use a field guide to identify them. If you have a camera, photograph the tracks or sketch them in a notebook. Also look carefully for clues on the path and direction of the prints. Make a note of all your observations.
  4. Take data over a series of days to see if the animals repeat themselves.
  5. Research. How can you find out more about these tracks and their patterns? Make a list of all the possible places and ways you might find this information. Could you ask a person, go to the library, search the Internet? There are many resources on the Web to help you learn more about animal traps including field guides to identify and interpret tracks. There are also instructions on how to make plaster casts of the tracks you find. To find more information about track traps, click here.
  6. Share your experience. Science is also about sharing what you learn. You might want to just keep your notebook for yourself, but you might also consider making a poster, model, report, or other project to share with your school, park, or family. You may also find that when you finish your initial study, you have a whole list of new questions to answer about your study site!