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Katarzyna Nowak

and 8 more

Participatory approaches such as community photography can engage the public in questions of societal and scientific interest. We combined data extracted from community-sourced, spatially-explicit photographs with research findings from 2018 fieldwork in the Yukon, Canada, to evaluate winter coat moult patterns and phenology in mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), a cold-adapted, alpine mammal. Leveraging the community science portals iNaturalist and CitSci, in less than a year we amassed a database of several hundred unique photographs spanning some 4500 kms between latitudes 37.6°N and 61.1°N from 0m to 4333m elevation. Using statistical methods accounting for incomplete data, a common issue in community science datasets, we evaluated effects of intrinsic (sex and presence of offspring) and environmental (latitude and elevation) factors on moult onset and rate and compared our findings with published data. Shedding occurred over a 3-month period, May 29-September 6. Effects of sex and offspring on the timing of moult were consistent between the community-sourced and our Yukon data and with findings on wild mountain goats at a long-term research site in west-central Alberta, Canada. Males moulted first followed by females without offspring (6.4 days later in the coarse-grained, geographically-wide community science sample; 23.7 days later in our fine-grained Yukon sample) and lastly females with new kids (5.5; 17.9, respectively). Shedding was later at higher than at lower elevations. Northern latitudes had slightly later but shorter shedding periods. We detected a possible shift in moult timing in recent years (2015-2018) that warrants additional investigation. Despite data limitations, such as bias towards recent photographs, our findings establish a basis for employing community photography to examine broad-scale questions about the timing of ecological events, as well as sex differences in response to possible climate drivers. As such, community photography can inspire public participation in environmental and outdoor activities with reference to iconic wildlife.