New Technology I

Contributed Paper
ROOM: HCCC, Room 23

8:10AM Testing Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrents for Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines in South Texas
Sara P. Weaver; Cris D. Hein; Ivan Castro-Arellano; Thomas R. Simpson
Wind energy development has long been known to impact bats by causing fatalities at wind turbines. Ultrasonic acoustic deterrent (hereafter deterrent) technology as a bat impact reduction strategy is in early phases of research, with few published field studies. Our objective was to assess effectiveness of a newly developed deterrent for reducing bat fatalities at a wind energy facility in south Texas. Sixteen randomly selected wind turbines were each equipped with 6 deterrents. Each deterrent emitted a continuous high frequency signal that spanned from 20-50 kHz. We randomly assigned 8 wind turbines as controls with deterrents off and 8 wind turbines as treatments with deterrents on, which rotated nightly from July 31 through October 30, 2017. We searched all wind turbines daily within established 100 m-radius circular plots for bat carcasses. We assessed effectiveness of deterrents with generalized linear mixed models (glmm) using package “glmmADMB” version in R version 3.4.3. We completed a total of 1,388 wind turbine searches, and discovered 303 bat carcasses determined as fatalities occurring the previous night. Of these, 197 occurred at control turbines and 106 at treatment turbines, for an average reduction of 46% (95% CI: 24-67). We found that deterrents significantly reduced bat fatalities (β = -0.790 ±0.165, Z = -4.78, p < 0.001); however, effectiveness was species-specific. Ultrasonic acoustic deterrents are a promising bat impact reduction strategy, but additional testing and refinement are required to further support these results.
8:30AM Elusive Environmental Dna (Edna) in Secretive Snakes
Mark A. Jordan; Rikki Ratsch; Jessica Merkling; Bruce Kingsbury
Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys are gaining traction as a method for determining the distribution of species that are rare, newly invasive, or have cryptic behavior. Although there are notable successes in the application of this tool, there is question as to its applicability to a diverse range of species and environments. We describe the development of an eDNA assay for the detection of Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) and Kirtland’s Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii), two imperiled snake species that are notoriously difficult to survey with traditional methods. We targeted crayfish burrows for environmental testing because both species use this microhabitat for overwintering and refuge, and we hypothesized that the cool, dark conditions of the burrow would be favorable for slowing eDNA degradation. Quantitative PCR with hydrolysis probes was used to amplify mitochondrial COI loci that excluded co-occurring species. Water that snakes defecated in during captivity was used to extract DNA and verify the sensitivity of the assays. In the field, we collected water and sediment from crayfish burrows across known gradients of snake abundance to test the usefulness of each assay for surveying. For S. catenatus, field samples were collected shortly following spring emergence and compared between sites where snakes are known to overwinter, are periodically observed, and rarely observed. A similar approach was taken in C. kirtlandii except that samples were also collected in mid-summer and fall. In both species, DNA amplification in all environmental samples was rare and those samples that tested positive were not replicated in multiple PCRs. Our results suggest that eDNA surveying of crayfish burrows for these species has limited utility and should be avoided as a strategy to determine distributions.
8:50AM New Technology From the Source: What Your Engineering Department Can Do for You
Paul Keenlance; Bruce Dunne; Jeffrey Ward
Technology is advancing at a pace unprecedented in human history, proving benefits both in personal life and in our profession. These advances in technology provide the potential for researchers to more effectively gather data to inform management. Unfortunately, incorporating new technology into research programs can be both expensive and intimidating to many wildlife biologists who lack a deep understanding of technological principles and process. Fortunately, much wildlife research is conducted by faculty at universities housing engineering programs or by resource management agencies in collaboration with these universities. Our goal is to demonstrate the potential for collaborations between engineering departments and biologists to develop cost effective technological research tools. We will use the results of several collaborations between the biology department and the school of engineering at Grand Valley State University as case studies illustrating the potential synergy of combining expertise and resources in developing such tools. The first of these is an unmanned aerial vehicle designed to locate radio collared animals with which contact has been lost when using a handheld yagi antenna. We will also discuss development of both remote UHF download and iridium uplink GPS radio collars. The last example is a RFID tag reader for use in tracking neonate box turtles. In each case, we will briefly discuss the cost, capabilities, and application of the tools developed. We hope these examples will both educate audience members about the possibilities of this type of collaboration and spur ideas for their own collaborations.
9:10AM Eye in the Sky: an Automated Uav System for Wildlife Tracking
Gabriel S. Vega; Michael W. Shafer; Carol L. Chambers; Jose G. Martinez-Fonseca
Very high frequency (VHF) tags continue to be a dominant method for tracking wildlife due to their low cost and mass. However, data collection is hindered by the low fidelity of data, and time required for tracking. In addition, low transmission power and the need to trek over varying and often difficult terrain challenges trackers. These limitations, in combination with signal attenuation from ground clutter, create an optimal opportunity for aerial ground tracking, an issue manned aircraft flights have historically attempted to circumvent. The associated hazards and increased costs of these flights can, in the future, be mitigated through the adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These vehicles will allow for rapid deployment and will provide novel detection and localization methods. Our group worked to integrate software defined radio (SDR) technology within a UAV platform. The system includes a modified hex-copter, outfitted with a flight controller, onboard companion computer, directional VHF antenna, and SDR hardware. In this presentation we will review system operational methodology, including pulse detection, localization, and automated UAV response. In some operational modes the system’s flight controller works in tandem with the SDR localization algorithms to generate flight plan response based on received signal strength. In this mode, automated triangulation-based tag localization is accomplished after two bearing estimates are made at different waypoints. The location of the second waypoint is determined by the system after the initial bearing estimate is made. Results from the UAV system include localization tests and tag detection, comparing tag distance from the vehicle against UAV altitude. A comparison has also been drawn for localization errors of the airborne SDR system against that of a human tracker on the ground using standard telemetry equipment, showcasing the effectiveness of the UAV system.
9:30AM Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Uavs) to Assay a Mangrove Estuary on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Adam Yaney-Keller; Pilar Santidrián Tomillo; Frank V. Paladino
Mangrove forests, while one of the most productive and endangered ecosystems in the world, are also some of the most difficult to access and study due to tidal inundation and thick understory. Along the pacific coast of Costa Rica, where 99% of the country’s mangroves occur, many of these forests reside in remote and difficult to access coastal regions. Recently, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have become a commercially available and popular tool for the exploration and environmental assessment of natural areas. However few studies exist on the use of UAVs for the study of mangrove ecosystems, especially in the neotropics. This study aimed to assess forest structure on a remote mangrove forest in northwestern Costa Rica using a small UAV over a 6-month period encompassing both dry and wet seasons. The UAVs built-in camera along with an additional commercially available precision-agriculture normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) sensor were used to create orthomosaic maps and digital surface models (DSMs) from aerial photography. From these, detailed measurements of the mangrove forest structure and diversity were derived. Structural parameters such as height, canopy coverage, species assemblage and other metrics were then compared to field-based measurements on canopy mangrove trees (≥ 5cm DBH) from 22 fourteen-meter diameter circular plots spread throughout the forest. UAV-derived measurements of plot maximum canopy height and canopy coverage aligned closely with field measurements, along with plot-dominant species distributions. Canopy height and canopy coverage models were then used to determine broader forest structure of the entire 1 km2 forest and a separate un-studied neighboring small mangrove forest. This study provides a comprehensive guideline from which further studies on remote, fragmented mangrove ecosystems using UAVs and precision agriculture NDVI imagery can be built, and provides new insights on the development of UAVs as a tool for measuring these rapidly disappearing ecosystems.


Contributed Paper
Location: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Date: October 9, 2018 Time: 8:10 am - 9:50 am