Okay, perpetually looping scratching gorillas aren't the point of camera-trap research. But they're a very fun byproduct, along with up-close-and-personal photographs of animals glimpsed in unguarded moments.
The jaguar above, filmed in Peru's Manu National Park, represents the 1 millionth image gathered by camera traps belonging to the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network. Managed by Conservation International, the network has deployed camera traps across 16 sites in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
At each site, the traps collect up to 60,000 images every year, a data deluge that's led to new statistical methods for turning aggregated photos into rigorous assessments of regional species health and biodiversity trends, or what they call an early-warning system for nature. The researchers hope camera traps will provide near-real-time feedback of changes that would otherwise take years or decades to quantify.