"Nineteen Years of Satellite Tracking Development and
Application to Wildlife Research and Conservation"
Nineteen years ago, the U.S. Army initiated a program
at the Johns Hopkins
University, Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), to investigate the development of small Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs) to be tracked via the French-U.S. Argos-Tiros satellite system. Since the inception of the program, Bird-Borne, miniaturization has led to the fielding of transmitters that weigh less than one ounce and are capable of interfacing with an array of sensors. Results of field tests during the 1980s and 1990s, examples of applications, and continued development of the technology through emerging systems will be discussed.
In 1981, the Bird-borne program was initiated at APL to develop a capability to locate (i.e., track) and monitor small, highly mobile organisms on a local, regional, and global scale. The primary objective has been to develop systems to facilitate the remote tracking and monitoring of free ranging organisms that pose especially difficult field problems for study. Avian species, due to their relatively small size and high mobility, have been the focus for the program. Sensors integrated into the satellite PTTs can also be used to collect information from the environment surrounding the animal (temperature, humidity, altitude).
Space-based tracking systems are now enabling scientists
to accurately study behavior, home range, and habitat use of wildlife for
basic research and the development of resource management plans for conservation.
As new, sophisticated space-based telecommunications systems become available,
more capable systems for tracking and monitoring free ranging organisms
will evolve. These systems will be fully integrated with computer-based
information systems and modeling functions, which will dramatically improve
scientistsí ability to study and forecast trends in species distribution
and abundance as they are affected by human endeavor on a global scale.