Accelerating the pace of conservation research: using advanced telemetry technology in California condor research and management

Authors: Darren Gross*, Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, Melissa Braham, Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, Molly Astell, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Rd. Suite B, Ventura, California 93003, USA, Joseph Brandt, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Rd. Suite B, Ventura, California 93003, USA, Michael Lanzone, Cellular Tracking Technologies, Suite B, 2405 North Center Avenue, Somerset, PA 15501, USA, Andrew McGann, Cellular Tracking Technologies, Suite B, 2405 North Center Avenue, Somerset, PA 15501, USA, Sharon Poessel, US Geological Survey, Snake River Field Station, 970 Lusk St., Boise, ID 83706, USA, Maitreyi Sur, US Geological Survey, Snake River Field Station, 970 Lusk St., Boise, ID 83706, USA, Todd Katzner, US Geological Survey, Snake River Field Station, 970 Lusk St., Boise, ID 83706, USA, Jonathan Hall, Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506
Topics: Animal Geographies, Biogeography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: telemetry, conservation, accelerometers, wildlife, human landscape, human environment
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: Download


Despite adapting to dramatic changes in the landscape, the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) remains threatened by human activity. In order to mitigate potential dangers to condor survival, researchers and managers have outfitted free-flying birds with patagial radio and GPS telemetry units that allow for constant monitoring of their activity and location. Though this data is useful, it cannot verify condor behavior, which could indicate exposure to threats. Many condors wear transmitters equipped with accelerometers, which have recently been used in studies of other species to remotely detect behavior. Here, we use accelerometry and GPS data to extract and compare ground-based behaviors of 60 California condors in human-dominated environments. To accomplish this, we first use ethograms generated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geologic Survey from accelerometry data of captive condors to identify behaviors of wild birds. Then, we align ground-based behaviors of these birds with their GPS locations and use spatial datasets in a geographic information system (GIS) program to compare behaviors across different areas. Preliminary results suggest statistically significant differences in the frequency of ground-based behaviors between human environments. More specifically, behaviors, such as feeding and roosting, occur more frequently on unmanaged land, in hunting zones, and in less urbanized areas. The completion of this project will influence condor management practices and promote new techniques for evaluating human impacts to wildlife and the landscape.

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