New Technology to Track Animal Distribution

Home » Technology » Technology Trends » Technology Trends in Sciences » New Technology to Track Animal Distribution


Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley, usa, have developed a new method of monitoring animal range sizes and distribution. The study, published online in PLoS One, analyses data from the latest global positioning systems (gps) technologies through a computational model to produce an effective map of an animal's homeland.

Precise plot

Past techniques are based on parametric distributions to predict where in space and time an individual is likely to be. The latest technique, called local convex hull LoCoH, is non-parametric and produces a much more precise plot.

"Our methods are much better at identifying objects such as rivers, cliff edges, lakes and rocky areas that either define the boundaries of an animal's home range or represents areas within an animal's home range that the animal avoids or cannot use," says Wayne Getz, the lead author. Besides, with significant advances of modern technologies, tracking systems can provide detailed information on an individual's movement, which is where this new analysis will really come into its own.

"The superiority of our methods becomes more evident as data quality improves…our method steadily improves with the frequency of data," says Getz. This methodology is important for conservation biology.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources monitors the world's species using criteria like distribution, area coverage and range to determine an animal's extinction risk. It would be interested in this technology and the team believes the research will provide improved data to conservation research and development of preservation programmes.

"For an animal to be healthy (to use its ecological resources in a sustainable way), it needs a certain amount of space. If a group of animals are too confined in a small nature park, they may change the landscape by turning grasslands into scrub or, in the case of elephants, destroy trees and change the character of the landscape for other species. LoCoH can be used to check that reserves are suitably sized for animals," says Getz. "Such studies may help us understand the role of corridors connecting otherwise isolated conservation areas."


Invention Intelligence, April 2007