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.”