HomeEvolutiona regional-scale monitoring system – Strategies Weblog

a regional-scale monitoring system – Strategies Weblog

Put up offered by Christine Beardsworth

Monitoring the motion of animals is essential for informing conservation practices however can current logistical obstacles, particularly when making an attempt to trace smaller species with massive GPS tags. Utilizing present applied sciences in new methods could assist overcome these obstacles and supply various approaches for precisely monitoring massive numbers of comparatively small sized species. On this weblog put up, Christine Beardsworth discusses findings from her latest Strategies in Ecology and Evolution paper “Validating ATLAS: a regional-scale, high-throughput monitoring system”.

Monitoring animals

Monitoring the place animals go, and when, is essential to understanding how they affect and the way they’re influenced by the setting. With this data, we will make predictions that help in conservation efforts and assist scientists to know basic facets of animal life.

These days, there are numerous monitoring programs out there. Take GPS for example. The identical know-how that helps individuals get from A to B in a automobile may also be used to trace the place animals go. Nevertheless, light-weight GPS units for small animals may be very costly, which signifies that few animals may be monitored until a undertaking may be very properly funded. Typically, monitoring units additionally should be retrieved from the animal to obtain the info, which may be problematic if a species will not be simply recaptured. There may be not but one good system for all species, however know-how is at all times advancing and nice strides have been made in utilizing radio transmitters to find animals remotely.

Radio monitoring will not be new. Scientists have been manually monitoring animals with handheld antennas for many years, and estimated areas of animals via triangulation. Radio transmitters are low-cost, light-weight and long-lasting (even with transmissions each few seconds), nonetheless, discovering every animal can take a very long time and will solely yield one or two areas per day, per particular person.

Lead writer, Christine Beardsworth, units off on the mudflat in direction of a predetermined location whereas being tracked by ATLAS. Credit score: Evy Gobbens

Makes an attempt have been made to automate this follow, and ATLAS is one such system. ATLAS makes use of an array of receiver stations – every with their very own antenna – to detect the time of arrival of transmissions from customized Extremely Excessive Frequency radio transmitters. These transmitters (or tags, as they’re usually referred to) may be lower than a gram in weight, however the complete weight of the tag is basically depending on the scale of battery used.

A brand new regional scale system: ATLAS

Since being developed during the last decade by Ran Nathan (Hebrew College of Jerusalem) and Sivan Toledo (Tel-Aviv College), together with colleagues on the Minerva Middle for Motion Ecology, the usage of ATLAS programs has expanded. There are at present 6 ATLAS programs operational worldwide and over 50 species have been tagged and tracked utilizing an array of ATLAS receivers. In our paper, we use the most important of those programs – the Wadden Sea ATLAS system (or WATLAS, as we prefer to name it) – to classify the accuracy and precision of ATLAS.

The Wadden Sea is a perfect location for this testing as it’s an intertidal zone with little radio interference within the neighborhood. The mudflats – on which a few of the receivers are constructed – supply a big space with no interruptions to the horizon, like buildings or timber, which will block radio indicators, due to this fact the “line-of-sight” between transmitters and receivers is restricted primarily by the curvature of the earth. 

One of many momentary receiver stations on the mudflat at excessive tide. Credit score: Eddo Hartmann

We examined the system utilizing a mixture of ‘stationary’ and ‘transferring’ assessments, the place the lead writer, Christine, took an ATLAS tag and a GPS unit along with her throughout the mudflats on pre-determined routes to particular areas throughout the array. By evaluating the ATLAS and GPS areas, we may get an thought of the accuracy of the system. We discovered little distinction (<10m) between the ATLAS and GPS estimates of location, demonstrating that the system was fairly dependable. We additionally used knowledge that had been collected on tagged crimson knots to establish how properly the system labored for small shorebirds.

Shorebirds within the Wadden Sea

Other than the technical facets that make WATLAS a wonderful mannequin system, the Wadden Sea itself is a UNESCO world heritage website and a extremely essential ecosystem that’s dwelling to tens of millions of shorebirds. Many of those shorebirds overwinter right here or stage throughout for much longer world migrations. Our focus has to this point been on monitoring crimson knots, a migratory shorebird species that breeds within the arctic. There are a number of sub-species of crimson knot, together with the canutus subspecies, which stops within the Wadden Sea briefly, on its method to Western Africa for the winter, and the islandica sub-species – which we research – that stays within the Wadden Sea throughout the winter.

A tagged crimson knot. The antenna of the transmitter may be seen as a gold strand coming from the tail (the transmitter is connected to the rump of the chicken). Credit score: Benjamin Gnep

We focus our analysis across the island of Griend, and located that ATLAS was in a position to monitor crimson knots whereas they have been on the mudflat. We additionally discovered that we tracked crimson knots in flight, with paths throughout the entire western Wadden Sea the place the closest receiver stations have been greater than 15 km away. Which means the system may be extremely efficient, even for small animals. That is excellent news for co-author Evy Gobbens, who will use ATLAS throughout her PhD to observe the motion of 5 shorebird species, together with the very small (~50 g) dunlin. ATLAS will help in her evaluation for the way these species could also be affected by sea degree rise sooner or later.

Lead writer bio

Christine Beardsworth is a post-doctoral researcher on the NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Analysis). She works with Allert Bijleveld to analyze the motion ecology of crimson knots within the Wadden Sea and has a eager curiosity within the individual-level elements that affect behaviour.

You may learn the total paper ‘Validating ATLAS: a regional-scale, high-throughput monitoring system’.



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