Ashleigh Wolfe is a PhD student at Curtin University studying the impacts of urbanization on Australia’s native fauna. Several years ago Wolfe decided she wanted to use GPS units to track Dugites, Pseudonaja affinis, in urban areas in order to assess how urbanization is affecting their populations. She started talking to companies about partnering to develop a GPS unit that would be suitable for tracking these elapids in the wild. “Telemetry Solutions has been the only company I’ve spoken to that was willing to give it a go”, Wolfe told me through our personal correspondence. After talking more with Quintin at Telemetry Solutions Ashleigh was ready to get things going, she just needed to get the money for the GPS units. In order to raise funds for her project Ashleigh started a Kickstarter campaign and in no time had raised over $6,000!
Wolfe used Ciofi & Chelazzi (1991) as a model for her attachment technique, fitting the units to the tails of snakes using small gauge fishing line with boat hitch knots through silicone tubing. She then tracked seven snakes over the course of two months. Unfortunately, high mortality rates were problematic for obtaining long term data. However, deaths were all of natural causes and snakes seemed to be unimpeded by the GPS units. In fact, Wolfe was actually able to gather useful data from the GPS tracking. Snakes were located on all occasions and, despite not being able to get fixes when snakes were underground, Wolfe was still able to get an average of four
fixes a day on snakes. Although dealing with a new application for this technology, Wolfe says “my biggest difficulty so far is that I’m tracking urban snakes, and there are so many factors in the city that can cause extra stress for the animals”. The good thing is that the technology seems to be functioning properly and facilitating data gathering quite well.
Wolfe tells me she will be continuing her work in September of 2016, trying to obtain a larger sample size and track snakes for longer periods of time. Currently Wolfe is still analyzing data and presenting her findings at conferences, such as the Australian Society for Herpetologists annual conference this week. I asked Wolfe if she could provide a statement about her experience with Telemetry Solutions and GPS tracking thus far, she had this to say:
“Telemetry Solutions worked with me to create a tailor-made GPS tracker to use on Australian elapid snakes. While GPS tracking snakes is in its infancy, I foresee it being an incredibly useful tool for studying these secretive serpents as the technology gets better and better.” – Ashleigh Wolfe
Find out more about Wolfe’s project at her kickstarter website: