Friday, March 20, 2009

Tracking Forest Creatures on the Move

The NY Times has a piece on a system for tracking animals. Called the Automated Radio Telemetry System, the method relies on seven 130-foot-high radio towers scattered across the island that can monitor data from many radio-tagged individuals simultaneously, round the clock, through the calendar:

Once an animal has been outfitted with a transmitting device, the towers can track its unique radio signature and, by a process of triangulation, indicate where it is on the island, whether it’s moving or at rest, what other radio-endowed individuals it encounters.

The constant data streams feed into computers at a central lab building on the island, allowing researchers to stay abreast of far more animal sagas than they could possibly follow through direct observation, and to make the best of their hours in the field. If you see an extended flat line on your computer monitor, it’s time to go out, retrieve the corpse and figure out what happened.

And because transmitters can now be made as light as two-tenths of a gram, scientists can tag and track katydids, orchid bees, monarch butterflies, even plant seeds.

“Automated systems like this are ushering in a new era of animal tracking,” said Roland Kays, another institute research associate. “There’s a lot of potential for seeing the routes animals take and the decisions they make every step of the way.”

Read more at - 'Tracking Forest Creatures on the Move'


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