Chicago Wildlife Watch Talk

Head up/down?

  • HillBilly by HillBilly

    We have a slight problem here. The baseline for our head up/down decision is the shoulders. However, if we use the gravitational definition of down (i.e. that down is the direction of gravity, the direction things fall), any creature in this orientation would have its "head up." I decided to use a slightly different definition of down, that down is the direction from the creature's back to the creature's belly, which gave it as head down.


  • DZM by DZM admin

    I would be interested in Mason's thoughts on this! I wouldn't call it a problem, just an interesting question. 😃


  • escholzia by escholzia

    I think this was discussed in an earlier thread, that they define "head up" as relative to the axis of the body. So a squirrel climbing up or down a tree would be "neither".


  • mason_UWI by mason_UWI scientist

    I think the reason behind why we want to collect these data will help elucidate the issue. It's hard to collect behavioral information from a single photo, but with the whole head up / head down tag we are trying to get an idea behind if an individual is being vigilant(scanning for potential predators or people) or not. Here, we assume that when an individual has its head up it is being vigilant while if its head is down the species may be foraging or just going about business as usual. For the most part, things climbing trees get the 'neither' tag because their head is not up or down, but in this case I could see an argument for 'head-up' because the raccoon appears to be looking at something out of the frame.


  • by scientist

    Just to add: we are looking for very clear presentations of these behaviors, so if a behavior is ambiguous, we encourage you to select neither. We are hoping to understand how perceived risk varies across the landscape. If a pattern exists, it will emerge out of the thousands of photos we have, so it's not critical to categorize behavior in every photo. We know it can be daunting when you are just seeing a snapshot of what the animal is doing. As such, we generally exclude behavior of climbers.
    We appreciate your critical thinking about this! These are all questions that we discussed when we designed the data collection!
    Here's a blog post that might provide more information: