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4H Wildlife Stewards
Bringing Science and Nature Together...one school at a time.


Monitoring is an effective way to find out if your wildlife habitat project is meeting its goals and objectives. Monitoring can show how well, or how poorly, a management system is working. It can help you identify needed changes and can how others can create wildlife habitats on school grounds.

Many kinds of monitoring systems are used to document the results of school wildlife habitat projects. Some systems, such as taking measurements and recording scientific data, can be exacting and quite complicated. The data may take many years to develop and analyze.

Other systems are quite simple. Taking photographs is one of the most basic monitoring techniques. While photographs cannot tell the entire story about a project, much information can be gathered from photographs taken at the same point over a number of years.

Photographs often reveal changes that measurements miss. They serve as re-reminder of how far you have come in establishing a healthy-functioning, natural resource area. Photos are an easy way to make others aware of the benefits of good land management practices. Furthermore, this is a great project for your students to implement.


You will only need a few supplies to photo-monitor your project. You will need a camera, of course, preferably 35 mm, and film. While not really a vital necessity, you may also wish to have a camera tripod to get steady, clear shots.

For close-up photographs, you will need four pieces of angle iron or rebar stakes about 16 inches long (or any height you can see easily), and a hammer or post driver depending upon ground conditions. For general view photographs, you will need two stakes about 3-4 feet high. Brightly colored spray paint for the stakes will help you find them later.

A wood or steel measuring tape, photo identification labels, a map at an appropriate scale, and a black felt tip pen are also necessary.


Close-up photos show specific characteristics of an area, such as soil surface or the amount of ground surface covered by vegetation and organic litter. Close-up photos are taken periodically from permanently located photo points.

Usually a 3 ft X 3 ft. square area is used for close-up photo plots. To mark the corners of the square, drive angle iron or rebar stakes into the ground on all four corners (Figure 1). Paint the stakes a bright color, such as yellow or orange, to help you relocate them during subsequent picture taking.

If you have a camera with changeable lenses, you should plan to use the same lens on your camera during subsequent picture taking as you did when you set up the original photo point and took the first pictures.

You and your camera should stand on the north side of the plot. By standing on the north side, photographs can be taken at any time during the day without casting a shadow across the plot. Before taking the picture, place a filled-out photo identification label (figure 2) on the ground next to the photo plot.

Place a steel or wood measuring tape across the sound side of the plot. The tape should be opened to 36 inches with the tape reading from left to right. The tape will provide some relative scale to the photo. Stand about 6-8 feet back from the center of the plot. Be sure you can see the label in the camera view finder.

After taking the picture, make the location of the photo plot on the map along with an arrow showing the direction in which you took the photo.


General view photos can be divided into two categories: features and landscapes.

Feature photos document change on or around large objects such as rocks, a part of the school building, playground equipment, or fences. Feature photos are usually taken from opposite ends of an imaginary line. For example, you many set up a photo plot to monitor changes on opposite sides of a fence or sidewalk. To do this, drive a stake or post into the ground on each side of the fence or sidewalk. The two points should be about 30-40 feet apart. Place the photo identification label in an upright position so that it appears in the foreground of the photograph. Hold the camera over one state, center the other stake in the middle of the photography. For the next photo, reverse the procedure. Be sure to include the photo label and, if possible, some sky in the photo to help set the scale of the objects begin photographed.

Landscape photos are an overview of the area showing the feature and its relationship to the surrounding area. A landscape photo might be taken from a nearby hill showing from a distance the same section of stream where the feature photo was taken.

If you are concerned about theft or vandalism of your photo stakes, take measurements of your stakes from some fixed location such as the school building, a lamp post or a large tree.


When you take subsequent photographs, follow the same process used in taking the initial ones. Include the same stakes and a new label in the close up photos. Match up the same landmarks, and stakes in the subsequent general view photos. Don't forget to make up a new label.

To give validity to your photos and to really show the results, it is best to stake subsequent photos at approximately the same time of the year as the originals.

Again, remember to keep copies of all the photos for your school project files.

Close-Up Permanent Photo Plot Location



4-H Wildlife Stewards, Sunnyside Environmental School, 3421 SE Salmon 1209,
Portland, OR 97214 - 503-916-6074, e-mail: wildifestewards@oregonstate.edu
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