U Students Study Wildlife in Red Butte Canyon

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(Photo Courtesy of Çağan Şekercioğlu)
Rory Penman
(Photo Courtesy of Çağan Şekercioğlu)
(Photo Courtesy of Çağan Şekercioğlu)

 

Life in Salt Lake City is full of buzzing cars and tall buildings, but just beyond the metropolitan area in Red Butte Canyon lies an area teeming with wild animals, including elk, moose and deer.

A team of undergraduate students at the U found this to be the perfect place for their studies. They’ve placed 17 hidden cameras in the canyon to learn more about the critters living in the space.

Chanapa Tantibanchachai, an associate science writer who was able to work side-by-side with the team, believes Red Butte Canyon was ideal for the project because of the opportunities present.

“I was given the chance to write about the project, and they chose to use the Red Butte Garden because it is a pristine ecosystem,” she said. “It is protected by the United States, and people aren’t allowed to go up and interfere with it.”

Tantibanchachai said the hidden cameras capturing both plants and animals in Red Butte Canyon are being used as a model to compare with other canyons in Utah. The idea for the project came from another study done in Turkey.

Andrea Rivera, an undeclared freshman, said the project is a great way to expand research in a local way.

“I think it is taking education and combining it with passion, and that is an incredible way to learn,” she said. “It is really effective.”

Rivera said programs like this are rare.

“They came up with an entirely new way to learn about what [they] want to study, and it is personal,” she said. “Instead of hearing about it from a professor or just learning about it through research, they are going out and experiencing it for themselves and creating their own research.”

Rivera had just one hesitation: the effect on the environment where the cameras were placed.

“As long as the habitat wasn’t destroyed and everything was still being seen in a natural state with natural occurrence, then the project is such a good idea,” she said. “But harming the environment would have to change all of the research gathered and hurt the ecosystem that Red Butte strives for.”

But Tantibanchachai said the overall purpose of the project was simple.

“The goal is to provide more research opportunities for the students and allow them to take the project into their own hands,” she said. “They benefited from research.”

j.skrivan@chronicle.utah.edu

@JulianneSkrivan

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