GPS suction tracker puts whales on the radar – Griffith News

A worldfirst trial monitoring of migrating humpback whales using a new method possesses had success and paved the way for the deployment of less invasive devices in ffuture follow-up studies.

Dr Olaf Meynecke from Griffith University Coastal and Marine Research Center (CMRC) led the study, which was published in Journal of Marine Science and Engineering.

Using a CATS (Customized animal tracking solutions) suction cup label, which temporarily adheres to the skin of the whale, Dr Meynecke was able to deploy the beacons in the Gold Coast Bay areas and track whales in real time using the global positioning system /Global mobile communication systems (GPS / GSM).

During the two deployments – one to an alleged male and the other to a female humpback whale – the beacons provided locating points with relatively high accuracy for both individuals, although swimming behavior and surface intervals are different.

In combination with an integrated archive data logger, the label also provided detailed information onlarge-scale habitat use, such as dive profiles.

“Use a GPS / GSM module on whales commonly used for fleet tracking is a first and it is a method that has a lot of potential, ”he said.

Ormally, satellite relay beacons are used transmit location data, simply because they work in remote locations but they are very expensive. However, as migrating whales stay close to shore most of the time, our beacon works good.

“These beacons are a more cost effective method and capture more data locations and data points over time. TThe principle is the same as other suction cup labels – the label sucks on the whales skin and falls just right. The whales dont appear note them at all.

The suction cup tags do not need to penetrate the skin of animals and can be used in shortlong-term deployments (hours to days), making them applicable to small-scale habitat use studies like this, which movements studied in the range of mbe at kilometers.

The beacons were approximately 20cm long and 10cm wide, were specially designed in a hydrodynamic shape for minimal resistance, and were waterproof and pressure-tight up to several hundred metersres.

Dr. Meynecke said information on the small-scale use of cetacean habitat (aquatic mammals) vsold provide important information on habitat preferences and sensitivity to environmental factors (hydrodynamics, temperature gradients, salinity, bathymetry) as well as anthropogenic impacts.

“Ideally for future studies, we would like to modify the label so that the antennas is enough out of the water to transmit after the tag detaches from the whale, and extend the tagging time and focus on the whales resting in the bays to study their behavior further, ”he said.

The study “Asset Tracking Whales – First Deployment of a Custom-Made GPS / GSM Suction Cup Tag on Migrating Humpback Whales” was published in Journal of Marine Science and Engineering.

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