In collaboration with Autonomous Flight Technologies, I’m working to develop a method to use drones to GPS track snakes. Well, more precisely, to transfer data collected by a GPS transceiver on/in the snake. This work is far from complete, but when fully developed it will greatly reduce the amount of time spent by in the field by researchers, while also increasing the amount of data gathered.
The basic idea is this – a drone carries a transceiver that can communicate with the snake’s GPS. The drone flies over the home range of the snake in a systematic way until the two transceivers connect, at which point the data uploads to the device on the drone!
I’ve also had the opportunity to give numerous presentations on my work to a diverse set of groups, including The Center for Lifelong Learning Program at The Phoebe Needles Center, The Izaak Walton League August County Chapter, The St. Paul’s Men’s Group in Salem, VA, and the Sierra Club of Roanoke.At the end of the day, this work is some of the most fulfilling to me.
Over the last year I’ve had numerous people tell me that they no longer kill snakes. In many ways, this sums up the purpose and meaning underlying what I do. Through my research I am pursuing scientific questions, but I have also come to see how scientific knowledge is often removed from public understanding. In my view, science should not be conducted in isolation, rather it should be integrated with a broader understanding of the world, and made accessible for people fromall walks of life. This is a large part of my mission.
I am still doing presentations and other types of outreach regularly, and am always looking for more opportunities to share my work and passion with people. If you would like to arrange for a presentation or a meeting please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss plans further!
It’s been a constant challenge finding rattlesnakes, solving logistical dilemmas, improving attachment techniques and more. But that’s not to say that nothing has been accomplished. In fact, I have made a good bit of progress and have fitted two rattlesnakes with GPS tracking devices. Check out the photos, video and article below if you’re interested in finding out more! And as always, feel free to contact me with questions, concerns and/or comments 🙂
Video: Nagaina climbing trees with her GPS trailing behind her!
Our Indiegogo 30 day campaign is over, but it’s not too late to support! The campaign is now InDemand, meaning you can still donate at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gps-my-rattlesnake/x/13534193#/
If you haven’t already, check out the site and please consider donating!
After a lot of filming, editing, revisions, and all around hard work, the short film is finally live! Take a look, and if you are interested in supporting the cause, donations are now being accepted at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gps-my-rattlesnake/x/13534193#/
I threw together some clips from our weekend photo shoot with a male, yellow phase Timber Rattlesnake, and his female offspring. Thanks to Stuart Jones for letting us work with his beautiful snakes, and to Charles Smith for assisting with videography, set up, and more. Keep an eye out for the full edit coming soon!
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: