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Powerful Animal Tracking System Helps Research Take Flight


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A Galapagos Albatross.

Scientists used a powerful new tracking system, Env-DATA, to better understand the migration patterns of the Galapagos Albatross.

Credit: MaxCine

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a tracking system that enables users to take a big data approach and work with layers of information.

Scientists studying the flight patterns of the Galapagos Albatross have used the Environmental-Data Automated Track Annotation (Env-DATA) system to combine global positioning system tracking data of individual birds with satellite data on weather patterns and terrain information. Env-DATA can handle millions of data points and serve a hundred scientists simultaneously.

"This is a powerful tool for understanding how weather and land forms affect migration patterns," says NCSU professor Roland Kays. "Ultimately it will help us answer global questions about how changes to our planet affect animal populations and movement."

Kays says the system also makes data manipulation easier, reducing tedious tasks to a mouse click that previously would take graduate students countless hours to perform.

He says the publicly available system is refined for ecologists but simple enough for novice scientists. For example, North Carolina science fair entrants used Env-DATA to track the movements of great egrets along the East Coast. Scientific users can share their data or restrict access, depending on the project.

From NCSU News
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