Sci­en­tists out­fit gators with track­ing de­vices

The Standard Journal - - EN­TER­TAIN­MENT -

FOLKSTON — Re­searchers are us­ing track­ing de­vices with the aim of bet­ter un­der­stand­ing how fe­male al­li­ga­tors slide through a south Ge­or­gia swamp.

Track­ing de­vices have been fit­ted on gators named Sweet Au­drey Laine and Cypress, The Sa­van­nah Morn­ing News re­ported.

The goal is to learn more about how fe­male al­li­ga­tors use the Oke­feno­kee Swamp ecosys­tem — and how their home ranges vary through­out the year.

“There have been a lot of stud­ies done on males,” said Kris­ten Ze­maitis, a re­search tech­ni­cian and grad­u­ate stu­dent at The Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia’s Odum School of Ecol­ogy. “We want to home in on the fe­males and see how they’re be­hav­ing both dur­ing a nest­ing year and out­side a nest­ing year.”

Sci­en­tists are also in­ter­ested in the gators’ home ranges, and ac­tiv­ity around their nests.

“How many hours a day are these fe­males guard­ing their nest?” Ze­maitis said. “That is a be­hav­ior that’s very com­mon. Is it cer­tain times day and how is that re­lated to pre­da­tion?”

The non­profit group Ocearch, which has tagged great white sharks and tracked their move­ments, added both al­li­ga­tors to its global track­ing site. That means peo­ple can go on­line and check in on the data as it is be­ing col­lected.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Twit­ter feeds are an­other way the re­searchers will share in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing video clips from wildlife cam­eras. One of those lo­cated near a nest cap­tured im­ages re­cently of a black bear sniff­ing a ga­tor nest be­fore be­ing scared away by the mama ga­tor’s warn­ing snort.

“We think that al­li­ga­tors are so cool and we’re so ex­cited about what we’re learn­ing out here that we don’t want to just share that with the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity we want that to be an ex­pe­ri­ence that is in­te­grated with the pub­lic,” said Kim­berly An­drews, re­search fac­ulty at UGA Odum School of Ecol­ogy. “So that we are learn­ing along­side these an­i­mals and us­ing tech­nol­ogy like satel­lite tags and the wildlife cam­eras at nests. These al­low us to learn to­gether in near real time.”

For the al­li­ga­tor pro­ject, the tags are set to pro­vide a lo­ca­tion ev­ery four hours, with Ze­maitis an­a­lyz­ing the data for her mas­ter’s the­sis.

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