Using Technology to Map Animal Migration Patterns


Technology has enhanced our understanding of animal behavior, communications, and migration, among many other things. Every year, many of the world’s animal species, including over 10 percent of bird species, migrate to other parts of the country or the world. They do this in search of better conditions, warmer weather, and food sources. Many experts in this field have dedicated much time into understanding why, when, and how animals migrate. Various forms of technology are making this easier to do. Technology also allows all the gathered data to be mapped out and analyzed on a larger scale. Some of these technology tools are discussed in this article.

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GPS Tracking Collars

GPS or tracking collars are used by experts out in the wild. Pet owners also use them for geofencing and tracking their pets. These GPS-enabled collars allow the owner to keep track of the animal’s movements. They are instrumental in many animal migration studies being conducted. In the United States, these smart collars are being used to track new migration routes for deer. Understanding migration patterns is a major part of conservation efforts.

In Wyoming, an area between some land developments has been kept undeveloped, thanks to these tracking efforts. Conservation experts identified this area as an important part in the migration route of at least 4,000 pronghorns. This was through the use of tracking collars. The land was to be developed into lakeside cottages but has since been converted into a wildlife habitat management area through conservation fundraising efforts.

Before tracking collars, scientists relied on observations made out in the field. They had to be on the ground to watch animals and follow tracks and trails. From there, they could draw some conclusions and make some hypotheses about migration routes for various animals.

Tracking collars rely on GPS tracking via direct satellite feed. They provide real-time location information, and the chips contained inside the collar can store information. In the more modern versions, these collars, which are put onto the animals in special capture and collaring missions, are preset to open and drop off the animal on a certain date. Researchers can then follow the GPS signals to the location of the collar and pick it up to further their research work.

Other Technology Tools for Animal Tracking

GPS collars are not the only technological developments and tools in the animal tracking arena. Big data is being used to pull together and analyze various sources of information about animal migration. Drones and satellite technology are being used to capture clearer images of animal migration, which was not easy to do in the past.

One area where there is still a lot of room for more technology is that of marine animal migration. Most tracking tools do not function or operate the same way underwater as they do on land. This makes it more difficult to follow the migration routes of underwater creatures. Some marine migrators include Blue whales and Humpback whales.

Some of the initiatives being used to track the routes of whales include public tracking apps. These allow ordinary citizens to contribute to marine research by giving information about any whale sightings that they make.

Most of the work done with tracking animal migrations globally has involved bird species. There are also various apps and platforms that allow people around the world to take part in research by uploading images of particular bird species sightings. All this data is put together to get a better understanding of migration routes.

There are various factors that could contribute to changing patterns in animal migration. Human activity, including land development and the effects of climate change are some factors. Conservationists need to understand these influences and have the best technology tools for migration mapping to guide their efforts.

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