Flat Rock Helps ICF Track Crane Migration

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) was organized in 1999 as a joint effort between various government agencies (state and federal) and non-profits to restore a self-sustaining migratory population Whooping Cranes in eastern North America.  In order to assess the success of the project and to deal with issues in a timely fashion it was essential that the locations of the birds be known often.  At the beginning of the project it was manageable to track all of the birds in the population by people on the ground with the aid of VHF radio transmitters. With an increase in the population, this method of monitoring the birds became untenable.

To supplement the monitoring effort, new types of technologies have been deployed on subsets of birds in the population.  Currently, there are two types of Position Tracking Terminal (PTT) satellite tracking devices deployed on WCEP birds- GPS and Doppler.  Additionally The International Crane Foundation and the University of Nebraska Lincoln developed an experimental cell tracking device. Currently these devices are deployed on Sandhill Cranes as a surrogate for testing purposes with a final objective of deployment on Whooping Cranes.Although these devices helped to make monitoring birds more efficient, dealing with all of this new data quickly became a major issue for the partnership.  Each of the devices transmit data in a different format and varying degrees of manipulation before obtaining a readable format.  In the past, the data was transmitted via email to a few individuals and run through one of two parsers before loading it into a GIS to create a map that would be disseminated to the partnership. This process quickly became a heavy cost on human time and as more and more devices were deployed, soon increased to an impractical level.

Through a partnership with Flat Rock, an automated system was developed where all data regardless of platform is imported into MapFeeder.  With this “tracking” component of the database, all members of the WCEP can access and view the tracking device locations in a map format as they need it.  The flexibility of the search tool of the database allows users to search on specific birds, time ranges and by spatial location allowing each user to customize their “personal report” for their needs in a very efficient manner.  Ultimately, this greatly reduces the amount of time the field scientist spend on writing reports in the office and  instead allows them to spend more time focused on monitoring  of birds and carrying out research related tasks in the field where they should be.Article written by Mike Engles of ICF