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How can we track populations?There are a few different methods that scientists use to track wildlifeWith the use of modern technology we can now effectively analyze the movement of animals VHF Radio TrackingScientists have been using VHF radio tracking since the late 1950’sThe ‘VHF’ stands for ‘very high frequency’ collar, also known as a pulse collar. How it works: Usually, the animal is first sedated, and while it’s asleep, the scientists gather information about the health and condition of the animal.A radio transmitter is placed on the animal (in the form of a collar)In general the weight of the collar should be max 5 percent of the animal’s overall body weight (in order to prevent harm to the animal), depending on the speciesOnce the radio transmitter is attached to the animal, it begins transmitting a radio signal.This signal allows scientists to physically locate it using an antenna and receiver. Scientists can pick up on the location of the animal by following the signal from a plane in the air, from a vehicle, or on foot.Advantages: VHF transmitters are easy to use, reliable, and affordable. They can be used for a wide variety of animals, and have a long battery life of up to 3 years.Satellite TrackingBegan its use in the late 1970’sSatellite tracking is similar to VHF radio tracking, but instead of a signal being sent to a radio receiver, the signal is sent to a satellite. With satellite tracking, scientists don’t have to be near the animal to pick up its signalAdvantages: Longer range than VHF radio tracking, versatile, reliable, and easy to useGlobal Positioning System (GPS) TrackingDeveloped in the early 1990’sGPS tracking is the newest technology being used to track wildlife. In GPS tracking, a radio receiver, not a transmitter, is placed on the animal. The radio receiver picks up signals from special satellites. It has a computer that then calculates the location and movement of the animal. The data gathered by the receiver is then sent to another set of satellites. The second set of satellites then sends the data to the scientists for analysis. How they work: The Global Positioning System is used to record the animal’s exact location and store the readings at pre-set intervals. Locations are recorded, allowing it to then be downloaded in various ways. **The older GPS collars used to store the data until the collar was retrieved. Now, most GPS collars allow the data to be downloaded remotely. GPS/GSM collars use GSM cell phone signal to download data. Store-on-board GPS collars can store data which is then downloaded remotely using a handheld UHF device. SAT/GPS collars use global Satellites to transmit the position and other data to a user’s server/desktop.Advantages: GPS collars are more convenient and accessible than VHF collars because their data can be collected at any time of the day or night from any location. Most GPS collars are also created with the same capabilities as VHF collars so animals can still be tracked and observed close by.*”””””Disadvantages: Need more power to function than standard VHF equipment, which adds weight to the collarUses the smallest possible batteries which usually results in reduced battery life to less than a yearGPS/GSM units use mobile phone signal which is limited in some areas so cannot be used, or provide poor performance. Expensive4) DNA SamplingThis is another way of tracking animals that is more hands-on than the other methodsAnimals can be tracked with DNA sampling, by collecting and testing their droppings and other biological materialsThis is a non-invasive method that does not require collaring animals So it’s less traumatic for themAnd it’s also less expensive than the other methods that use technology””””””You can compare it to when detectives do a forensic search of a crime scene and look for tissues and cells that contain the DNA of the suspectsA DNA sample can identify tracks of various animals Is tracking populations harmful?Marking and tracking can be excellent techniques for monitoring and sampling a populationEthical debate about the technology’s potential impact on the animals Some scientists are concerned  that the handling of animals during data collection for population density and size may alter their behaviour or reduce their reproductive ability after being releasedConcern that trapping methods may be harmful; long-term effects of repeated tranquilizing of large animals are unknown, as well as the effects of collars and tagsEffects of pursuing, capturing, and marking animals are also unknownThe Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is currently developing a set of guidelines for ethical wildlife researchEncourages researchers to reduce their use of animals in studies as much as possible and to support and develop techniques that will minimize pain and distress in animalsMeasuring and estimating population size are necessary for developing population management strategies and reducing the effects of environmental stressors (natural or human-made)Efforts should be made to ensure that the use of animals in research is valid, humane, justifiable, and considerate

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