New Technology I

Contributed Paper
ROOM: Rooms 27 – Picuris, 29 – Sandia and 31 – Santa Ana Combined
SESSION NUMBER: 41
 

10:30AM Surveying Anuran Diversity and Their Breeding Activities Via Call Monitoring: A Novel Device Developed Based on Machine-Learning Algorithms
Michael D. Black; Thilina D. Surasinghe; Christian Brady; Nicholas Abreu; Amber Nieves; Perry Warner
Given precipitous decline in global amphibian diversity, long-term monitoring of amphibian communities have attracted much attention of wildlife biologists. Amphibians are considered environmental sentinels, therefore, surveying amphibian communities and their activities sheds insights on overall environmental health of certain regions and ecosystems. There are several standard amphibian monitoring techniques most of which are labor-intensive and time consuming. With the advent of soundscape and acoustic ecology, novel devices have been developed to record and document amphibian vocalizations. However, most such devices are prohibitively expensive. In this study, we developed our own hardware and software components to record amphibian vocalizations and analyze, in real time, species identity and intensity of vocalizations. This device uses inexpensive, off-the-shelf hardware components and our own software, dramatically reducing the overall price for the system. The initial unit uses an inexpensive microphone, software-adjustable amplification, and an Atmega328 microcontroller to record vocalizations and store them on an SD card. The unit analyses these vocalizations in real time to capture pitch signatures, based on Fourier analysis, of species present. It then uses a set of neural networks, each trained for a specific species, to identify which frog species are present. The unit communicates wirelessly to a remote computer to alert a researcher when vocalizations start and end, species-specific details of calling activities, and if species of special concern are detected.
10:50AM Developing and Testing a Software Defined Radio Telemetry System for Wildlife Tracking
Michael R. Finley; Michael W. Shafer; Paul G. Flikkema
Current methods of locating and tracking radio-tagged wildlife are hampered by the inaccessibility of their habitats. The high costs, risk to human safety, and small sample sizes resulting from these methods limit our understanding of the movement and behaviors of many species. We are developing a software defined radio (SDR) system for integration with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), allowing a radio sensing platform to fly in close proximity to rough terrain at a very low cost, improving coverage and range and hence the efficiency of detecting and finding very high frequency (VHF) wildlife radio telemetry tags. Our research targets the development, analysis, real-time implementation, and testing of SDR-based signal processing algorithms for SDR-UAV platforms. This system will take advantage of both wireless communication and radar signal processing, as well as modern statistical methods for inference of RF source locations, in combination with fusion-based inference that draws on RF data from both mobile UAV-based receivers and ground-based system operated by expert humans; the system takes the benefits of both the current methods being used to track wildlife and novel approaches with the use of software defined radio. In this presentation, we discuss this SDR system and present results that compare the system to standard handheld receivers currently employed by wildlife biologists and ecologists. We discuss the hardware and software requirements and methods for integration with UAV avionics systems.
11:10AM Counting Cats: A User Friendly Tool for Identifying Individual Pumas from Footprints.
Sky Alibhai; Zoe Jewell; Jonah Wy Evans
Pumas (Puma concolor) and many other large felid populations are notoriously difficult to monitor. Trapping and radio collaring, while often considered the gold standard for monitoring, has limited applications due to being invasive and exceedingly expensive over large areas. Trail cameras provide a viable alternative for some species, however pumas lack the spots, stripes, or other unique features necessary to reliably differentiate individuals. In some environments, footprints can be abundant and previous researchers have investigated their use as an alternative tool for monitoring pumas. However, earlier approaches were complicated to apply and have only been tested with small datasets. Our objective was to develop a robust and user-friendly footprint identification technique to identify and individual pumas and their sex from digital images of footprints. We used a standardized image collection protocol to collect a reference database of 535 footprints from 35 captive pumas (300 footprints from 19 females and 235 footprints from 16 males) from 10 facilities, ranging in age from 1 – 20 yrs. Data were analyzed using a customized model in JMP software from SAS, based on a pairwise trail comparison using robust cross-validated discriminant analysis with a Ward’s clustering method. Classification accuracy varies based on the test population, but was consistently well above 90% for individuals, and > 99% for sex discrimination. This technique provides an alternative method for studying puma and other elusive felids, and is amenable to both citizen-science and opportunistic/local community data collection efforts, particularly as the data collection protocol is inexpensive and intuitive. In regions with adequate substrate (snow, sand or dust), FIT could be used to estimate puma populations at a much reduced cost and effort.
11:30AM Detecting the Presence and Abundance of Streamside Salamanders in Middle Tennessee Using Environmental DNA
Nicole A. Witzel; Ali Taheri; William Sutton
The Streamside Salamander (Ambystoma barbouri) is an Ambystomatid salamander that occurs in Middle Tennessee. This salamander species is active during winter and spring months when it emerges to breed in low-order, ephemeral streams. As these animals are cryptic and only surface-active for several months, they can be difficult to detect using traditional survey methods. Surveys that target environmental DNA (eDNA) in the form of DNA sloughed into their aquatic environment could provide an effective method for detecting the presence of this species. Water samples were collected at 50 meter stretches of 17 streams across the A. barbouri range once per month for 4 months. Segments were searched for all life-stages of salamanders. The DNA extracted from each sample was run through quantitative PCR using an A. barbouri species-specific primer designed and tested in the Wildlife Ecology Lab at Tennessee State University. The results were fitted to a linear regression curve and the initial amount of DNA present in each sample was retrieved. By subtracting the amount of DNA at 50 meters from the amount of DNA at 0 meters, we extrapolated the amount of DNA present in the stream section and related it to the amount of eggs, larvae and adult salamanders found throughout the season. The long-term goal of this study is to provide a replicable eDNA approach to identify A. barbouri populations in Tennessee. This information will provide a method which can be used by wildlife agencies to further the knowledge and conservation of the species.
11:50AM Transmitter Influences On Raptor Agility and Raptor Prey Selection
Rebecca Perkins; Clint Boal
Remote sensing technology (i.e., VHF radios, GPS transponders, etc.) has become an important tool for many studies conducted in wildlife research. The direct effects of the added weight from these transmitters are, however, poorly understood, especially for birds. For predatory volant species, the addition of weight could be deleterious to agility and result in reduced prey capture capabilities. We investigated the potential impacts of transmitter weight on raptor agility through indoor flight trials with a trained Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus). In these trials we recorded the flight paths of the trained hawk as she flew around an obstacle. During the trials she was fitted with mock transmitters weighing 0.4, 2.3, and 5.2% of her body weight. We observed significant differences in all axes of flight paths among treatments (x axis: p < 0.001, y-axis: p = 0.0021, z-axis: p < 0.0001). We observed similar differences by treatment for velocity and curvature, but not for acceleration. Carrying additional weight may have negative impacts on volant prey species as well. We investigated the impacts of radio transmitters on avian predatory selection of bobwhites with 5 voluntary falconry birds and wild-caught northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus). In each trial two bobwhites were released from paired quail launchers and pursued by a trained Harris’s hawk. Each trail pair consisted of one bird fitted with a 5.5g radio collar necklace and one handled similarly but unburdened by a transmitter. We conducted 53 successful trials in which a hawk clearly pursued one bird over the other. The Harris’s hawks pursued the bobwhite fitted with the transmitter in 34 (64%) of the trials. Our findings show no statistically significant difference from random selection of what was available across hawks.

 

Contributed Paper
Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 25, 2017 Time: 10:30 am - 12:10 pm