By Greg Bartlett
GPS technology has an abundance of uses, from keeping businesses organized and saving them money to protecting your teenage driver. However, one use that can be easily overlooked is its ability to help scientists. In fact, GPS tracking devices can be very helpful in monitoring the travel patterns of animals.
A group of scientists at Yellowstone National Park have been tracking the grizzly bears at the park. This will allow them to track the bears as they wander around the park, sleeping and killing prey. The GPS tracking devices that they used will release themselves from the bears’ necks after the battery dies. Other tracking collars are designed to release when triggered by the scientist.
Both passive and real-time tracking devices can be used to monitor animals. Passive devices are cheaper, so saving money on their research can be an extra incentive for scientists to use these systems over the real time ones. However, this requires them to be able to retrieve the device from the animal in order to get the tracking information, which is stored on the system. In the case of the bears at Yellowstone National Park, scientists would have to track down the bears again and shoot them with tranquilizers in order to get the GPS tracking collars off of them. This may be a little difficult for the scientists depending on the type of animal that is tracked.
Real-time GPS tracking devices on the other hand automatically send signals, so the scientists can continually be tracking the animals. Although this approach is more expensive, it can be more helpful to scientists by consistently providing them with information, which they can then evaluate, instead of waiting until the end of the study period to receive all of the tracking information.
GPS tracking devices work well for scientific research for several reasons. First, these systems are accurate. Scientists can see exactly where each animal is located, and they don’t have to worry about double checking the information from the GPS tracking devices. Accuracy is very important in any scientific experiment because it allows them to make discoveries and decisions about how to make life better for the animals.
GPS tracking devices also save time. Trying to physically track animals in a park as large as Yellowstone would be a devastating failure. It would also require more scientists than the park could afford. Instead, scientists can use these tracking systems and monitor all the animals at the same time from a distance.
Another reason that GPS tracking devices are very useful to scientists is that they do not disturb the animal. Although the animal may originally be annoyed at a GPS tracking collar, it will soon forget about the device. This allows scientists to get the information that they need while keeping the animals happy.
It will be very interesting to see what kinds of scientific discoveries will be made in the next few years thanks to the help of GPS technology.