Our Border Wildlife Study is designed to rigorously document which species are migrating through and residing permanently in the area where southeast Arizona meets northern Sonora and there is no wall.

Our camera array is deployed across a grid with 65 observation points spaced 2 km apart in the U.S. and Mexico. The passive infrared cameras trigger when they sense motion and heat to capture images of wildlife, 24/7.

Border Wildlife Study cameras
Our Border Wildlife Study uses an array of 65 cameras distributed in eight “blocks” between the Patagonia Mountains to the west and Huachuca Mountains to the east. Each black dot represents a camera location.

This design creates a network of camera points optimized to detect both wide-ranging large mammals like jaguars and small animals like coatis and birds. Our design is based on the “TEAM” protocol — the global wildlife-monitoring standard also used by the U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada. 

Because the TEAM protocol selects regularly spaced camera locations across different landscape features and habitats, it removes bias in camera placement and increases the likelihood of documenting the true breadth of the wildlife community. It allows for direct scientific comparison between camera points because they’re selected the same way.   

Cameras are checked every 6-8 weeks to maintain battery power and collect photos. These photos are then screened for wildlife detections by Sky Island Alliance staff, interns, and volunteers — with positive detections carefully identified. We process about two million photographs a year, and only 1% are animals. The vast majority of detections are wind-blown vegetation, cattle, and occasional humans.  


TEAM Network. 2011. Terrestrial Vertebrate Protocol Implementation Manual, v. 3.1. Tropical Ecology, Assessment and Monitoring Network, Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, Arlington, VA, USA.