Collection of scientific data in the wilderness occurs with the help of a wide range of tools and procedures. These systems vary greatly depending on the size, habits, and elusiveness of the subject the researchers are trying to find out more about, as well as the level of financial resources the scientists have at their disposal.
For example, in conducting prey studies in the Cerrado, researchers used a simple set-up to temporarily capture small animals such as frogs, mice, voles, lizards, and caecilians. The researcher placed a long, narrow length of tarp about one-foot-high, on its end along the ground, using sticks to prop it up and secure it. At the end of the "fence" the researcher buried a bucket up to its rim. More fences can be built radiating out of the pit in many different directions – in this case the researcher only had two runners on opposite ends of the bucket.
The fences work to guide small animals toward the pit, where they will fall in, and then wait trapped until the researcher comes along to see what he or she has caught. This data collection method requires that the researcher be able to check the trap frequently, so that the animals do not starve or dehydrate before they can be checked and released.
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To capture small birds and bats, researchers can create a wall of thin but strong netting that will ensnare the animals. The netting, called "mist netting," entangles the flying creature until the researcher comes back to release them. This tool also requires regular checking so that the animal does not harm itself while waiting to be freed.
For bigger animals, researchers use large cages with trapdoors rigged to spring shut when animals go inside. It is important that the cages are not much larger than the animal being caught, because if the creature has too much room to thrash about, it might injure itself trying to escape. Using areas identified as having high wildlife traffic and setting food as bait inside the cage are means for increasing the likelihood of catching the desired animals.
Fencing enclosures can also be used to corral wild animals and funnel them into a tighter area in order to restrict the animals' movement. This enables the researcher to collect data with lowered risk of harm to the species and the scientist. However, systems such as this are difficult to implement in areas like the Pantanal that experience flooding or changing landscapes. Under these circumstances the animals can be at risk of drowning if they become trapped in water before the researcher has a chance to check the trap.
Once animals have been captured, it is possible to take measurements and samplings for later analysis. It is also possible to tag them for future identification, or even put radio collars on them in order to track their movements in the wild. With dangerous animals, it is often necessary to anesthetize the animals before conducting any data collection or placing collars and tags upon them.
Radio collars were the most common method for tracking animals we saw used in the Pantanal and Cerrado. Collared animals included peccaries, giant anteaters, maned wolves, tapirs, jaguars, and cougars. By using a mobile antennae, researchers could pick up on a collar signal, then zone in on the subject until located – allowing both technical and visual confirmation of the species whereabouts and movements.
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