Understanding how the behaviour of species changes over time is vital to how we might protect and preserve key species. This is critical for those species that are vulnerable to changes in the environment, such as the response of global ecosystems to climate change and human activity. In particular, understanding the movement and spatial dynamics of individuals, the interactions between them and their environment, and spatial locations and patterns that are important for species survival, is vital. However, established techniques for studying the movement and behaviour of individual animals are typically limited, inefficient, time consuming, and expensive.
Tracking technologies are often expensive, inflexible, inappropriate (size, range, functionality, weight), and labor intensive, limiting both the applicability and scale of ecological and behavioural studies. In addition, even when data are collected, few if any computational and software tools exist to analyze the data easily and accurately or to enable the development and testing of predictive models that use the data. As a consequence, we understand remarkably little about the behaviour of most key species, and less still about how their behaviour is or will change as the environmental changes.
Here, we present an open, reconfigurable, flexible, wirelessly-enabled, and low-cost tracking technology, and set of software tools that address almost all of these problems. These technologies are designed to enable researchers, to undertake previously impossible scientific studies collecting novel types of data and employing new kinds of analyses. These are initially focused on the migratory and foraging behaviour of pelagic seabirds, but the platform is an open design with open software, so researchers can choose to modify the existing designs as their projects require, with a number of solutions provided for most common tracking problems.