Project CAT (Cougars and Teaching)
A Unique Collaborative Project Between Schools and Researchers
The NatureMapping Program is Coordinating Project CAT as a Partnership between
Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife, The Cle Elum/Roslyn School District, Cle Elum and Roslyn Community Members, University of Washington, and Central Washington University.
Project CAT in designed to provide collaborative
research on cougars in rural and suburban settings to better understand
cougar-human interactions. K-12 students, teachers and local community members will
assist researchers in this extensive study of regional cougar populations.
Project CAT is an eight year study which will involve three regions/locales in Washington State.
The program's initial location is in the Cle Elum area. Here cougars and community mutually coexist in an area which provides
quality habitat and open spaces for both.
Eventually, one location will be selected in western Washington and another will be in the northeast corner of the state. The comprehensive
goal of the project is to better understand the dynamics of people/cougar interactions within different regions of the state.
The study will also try and understand the dynamics of secondary predators (fox, coyote, bobcat, black bear) and prey
populations (elk, deer, and small mammals), which interact with the cougars. This will be done by enlisting
the help of students.
They will be taught observation and tracking skills while at the same time learning the ecology of the area.
The result will provide a better understanding of these interactions for developing strategies
for managing human development.
The Education Component
This project is an avenue for traditional research methods to blend with the direction
of current education strategies. Margaret Tudor is the education
director for the WDFW and NatureMapping codirector. She is helping to integrate The
NatureMapping Program's curriculum for the Cle Elum School District as it addresses
the Washington State Standards for Learning.
Integrating real-life research into current curriculum provides positive opportunities and experience
for the student, teacher and
K-12 students will be involved in different components of the
project. Selected high school students will be involved in the actual radio collaring and tracking
for each of the study cougars. Younger students will report data on primary and secondary prey species
such as deer and rabbits. The students will record the animal tracks, what they eat and even identify, record, and collect scat for analysis by researchers.
CyberTracker is a new-age data collection tool which has been modified for The NatureMapping
Program for use in Project CAT. CyberTracker is essentially a data collection software that works from a
PDA platform (palmOne). CyberTracker works by icon-driven screens which ask for specific
information while as the same time queing the data collector for a variety of ecological information.
CyberTracker World and has provided the
tools to integrate the use of this data collection format for Project CAT.
Dan Hannafious, NatureMapping Program Assistant, is
coordinating the use of CyberTracker for use in this Washington State project.
The Research Component
WDFW Researcher, Gary Koehler, Central Washington
University faculty, Jim Depaepe, Cle Elum school faculty, Sue Gribble, and NatureMapping codirector, Karen Dvornich,
will have the opportunity to train teacher, student and community members how to collect
and analyze scientifically credible data.
Through The NatureMapping Program, researchers are learning the value of involving students and communities in data collection.