The objective of this activity is for students to learn the advantages and disadvantages of radio collaring animals as a means of tracking their movement.
When scientists want to monitor animals they cannot easily follow, they sometimes use radio collars. Radio collars provide scientists with an animal's location, allowing researchers to see how large animals' ranges are and follow the animal's footsteps.
To do this experiment you will need a cell phone, a speakerphone, and a sketched map of a neighboring area, such as a school campus or subdivision. You can either have each participant draw their own map or you can provide them with one.
Let an individual, or a small group, take the cell phone. They will act as the radio collared research subject and walk around the designated region, calling back to the researchers a set number of times. With each call they should describe their location in two sentences or less, using geographic descriptions as clues. It is the goal of the researchers to pinpoint the research subject's location on their school map and track its course.
After the research subject returns to the class, let the students share their maps with each other to see how similarly they mapped the subject's path. Discuss if tracking the subject was more, or less, difficult than you had anticipated. Then discuss what additional difficulties and advantages would come into play using animal subjects and radio collar tracking systems. Lastly, explore what types of information could be learned from radio collaring experiments, and how this information could be used to help protect the animals being tracked.
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