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April 28, 2022

Crowdsourcing Research

There are two sounds made by animals that were rarely heard together in the wild, that of a coyote and a small gray fox. Yet, these two species have become new woodland neighbors. “Citizen Scientists” have helped researchers document how coyotes and small gray foxes have found a way to coexist. Learn more at NSF’s “The Discovery Files.”

Credit: National Science Foundation

Crowdsourcing Research

This is The Discovery Files, from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Wait! Listen!

Those are two sounds that were rarely heard together in the wild, a coyote and a small gray fox.

These two species have become new woodland neighbors and the question for researchers is how? How can they collect the data necessary to draw conclusions on this new living arrangement?

With support in part from NSF, researchers at North Carolina State University worked with 336 trained "citizen scientists" to place 915 motion-sensitive cameras in suburban, rural and wild areas in North Carolina.

The partnership between citizens and scientists highlighted the unbelievable value of crowdsourcing research. Scientists wanted to know how the Eastern migration of coyotes is impacting native species, such as the gray fox, from how they live to disruption in food sources.

"Citizen Scientists" helped document the new ways resourceful gray foxes have increased their odds of survival.

The images revealed the two species are more likely to coexist in forested areas and in suburbia, while foxes now avoid rural areas that offer little to no tree cover for protection.

All this could lead to more research on urbanization and the fragmentation of animal habitats.

To learn how you can become involved in citizen science projects in your area, visit

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"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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