Biologists and conservationists often need to identify individual animals in the wild to help answer questions related to population density, foraging habits, etc. But there’s a catch: Many of the markers they use, such as labels with colors or numbers, are only clearly visible in daylight, posing a challenge for animal studies. nocturnal.
Now researchers, including post-doctoral fellow Yasmine Majchrzak, have found a simple but effective way to solve this problem: a barcode template using heat-shrinkable material attached to antennas or collars used in field research. .
“We already put collars on individuals because we’re monitoring survival and behavior, so we thought, what if we could put some kind of pattern on collars and antennae and try to identify them that way?” said Majchrzak.
The economical and non-invasive solution uses the same type of shrink tubing that covers cables or wires to prevent wear. The material is naturally reflective when photographs are taken with motion-triggered cameras, which researchers typically set up in the field.
“The biggest limitation of the methods that currently exist is that you can’t really see numbers or colors or anything like that at night,” Majchrzak said. “The fact that you can get something reflective and easy to identify is a huge plus.”
Simply incorporating additional functionality into existing collars and antennae also means the method is suitable for a wider range of animal sizes and species, Majchrzak explained.
“We were able to use it on a small species, the snowshoe hare, which isn’t really an area where people were able to get individual identification very often.”
In addition to snowshoe hares, Majchrzak and her collaborators were able to test the new method on Canada lynx, two ideal species to test because they are particularly active at night, she explained.
The method can also be beneficial for tracking the population density of animals that cannot be retrapped.
Majchrzak said the new method can be used to answer a wide variety of ecological questions, such as how often a mother visits a nest to monitor her young or which animals spend a lot of time together.
“I hope any other researcher who is trying to find a way to tag an individual at night for their own research purposes will find this article, and maybe it will help them.”
Collaborators include Stan Boutin, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Michael Peers, Banting Postdoctoral Fellow.
The study was published in Mammalian Biology and was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
| By Adrianna MacPherson
Adrianna is a reporter for the online magazine Folio at the University of Alberta. The University of Alberta is an editorial content provider partner of Troy Media.
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