Tracking Changes In The Environment

It’s a big deal to track environmental changes and how building and development may impact local wildlife and plant life.  It’s in the State’s best interests to employ environmental surveyors in order to track animal migration patterns and determine whether or not a building project would encroach upon wildlife patterns.  This is why laws have popped up requiring environmental surveys to take place before development.

Some of the systems that these companies use involve computerized models of animal behavior patterns.

The migration patterns of Monarch butterflies, for example, are tracked via computer and plotted.  Volunteers tag Monarchs, and when observers see the tagged butterfly they enter the data and where it was sighted into a computer database.

What are some issues that might arise with computer tracking of wildlife?

“Oftentimes, what is seen on radar screens as interference is really migrating birds,” says Gauthreaux, a professor of biological sciences at Clemson University in South Carolina. Doppler radar measures increments in frequency shifts and location, thus giving information on speed and direction. And because Doppler uses a narrower, more powerful beam, it gives a finer resolution. Furthermore, Doppler radar uses high-powered computers to process more data more quickly than could be done using older radar systems and older computers. As a result, data from Doppler radar is available from the Internet in half-hour updates.

Nevertheless, distinguishing birds from rain and other weather patterns, as well as from insects, smoke, and dust particles, is not easy, Gauthreaux says. “It takes years to learn,” he says. But there are ways to make distinctions. For one thing, even the slowest birds fly faster than the fastest insects. For another, unlike weather systems, birds move at different speeds than the wind. And, because large flocks tend to be evenly distributed when they fly, they appear symmetrical on radar screens, whereas other radar images often appear irregular.

Cohn, Jeffrey P. “Tracking wildlife: high-tech devices help biologists trace the movements of animals through sky and sea.” BioScience 48.1 (1999): 12+

And then obviously there are the more pressing issues such as computer malfunction.  It’s important for scientists to ensure that their computers are in proper working order, free from malware and viruses.  Websites such as The PC Dojo are instrumental in helping scientists to maintain their computers easily so they can focus on the work at hand.

Other problems include tracking the animals themselves, and there must be careful precautions taken to ensure the tracking itself doesn’t disturb the animals.  Trackers and biologists must stay downwind from animals so as not to disturb them or cause them to become scared because of the scent of a human nearby.