Advancing site level management through innovative reptiles’ tracking and behavioural decryption

About the project

Although modern technologies such as GPS and accelerometers have revolutionized the field of animal monitoring and habitat utilization, there have been technical limitations preventing their use for small-sized reptiles. The general objective of this project is to tackle this problem and to advance scientific knowledge in the fields of (a) reptile locomotion (b) behavioral analysis and (c) conservation, through the development of innovative monitoring techniques and approaches. The project will take place in Cyprus using two common species, a lizard (Stellagama stellio) and a snake (Dolichophis jugularis). For achieving these objectives two innovative techniques will be established. The first aims to assist in the semi-autonomous and continuous remote tracking of reptiles to obtain finescale locomotion data. This technique will be based on Angle-of-Arrival measurements acquired through Radio Direction Finding (RDF) technology which is able to calculate and project the location of a VHF transmitter on a digital map. The second focuses on semi-autonomously recognizing and categorizing behavioral patterns of reptiles, tagged with small-size accelerometers This technique relies on analyzing acceleration curves through the use of pattern recognition software and linking them with a predefined behavioral pattern database. The combination of these techniques with state-of-the-art technology in remote sensing, advanced photogrammetry and image pattern recognition will allow the creation of fine-scale micro-habitat utilization maps, advancing site level management through the designing of more targeted, species based management and conservation actions. For the successful implementation of this project, a number of activities are being put forth including developing of innovative tools, monitoring of reptiles, analyzing acceleration curves and developing algorithms for predicting animals’ movements. Both techniques when fully developed will be tested in the field through a case study and their abilities for enhancing conservation delivery will be evaluated.

Aims of the project

  1. To advance scientific knowledge in the fields of reptile locomotion, behavioural analysis and conservation through the development of innovative monitoring techniques and approaches allowing the creation of fine-scale micro-habitat utilization maps,
  2. Test and evaluate the abilities of these new techniques to increase site level management efficiency through the designing of more targeted, species based, management and conservation actions.

Expected results

  1. Creating new tools for automatically receiving VHF signals and recognising signals’ AOA.
  2. Developing a dynamic platform able to analyse signals’ AOA and provide spatial information.
  3. Creating detailed behavioural databases for lizards and snakes using acceleration curves. The curves will derive from small-size accelerometer adjusted on two individuals (one lizard and one snake) studied in controlled environment and TimeClassifier pattern recognition software.
  4. Creating virtual overview of the behavioural pattern database by transforming acceleration curves to motion patterns, using visual 3D models of the animals and motion synthesis computer animation software.
  5. Analysing and categorizing movement patterns described by the acceleration curves acquired from wild animals in the field using the created behavioural database. This will allow recognition of animal movements including both visible and not clearly visible movements (i.e. beneath tree canopies or inside shrubs and burrows), thus providing at the same time continual information for a number of days or weeks on the behaviour of the animal in each micro-habitat without the need for a human observer to be present.
  6. Establishing an innovative technique able to semi-autonomously analyse and categorize movement patterns described by acceleration curves not included in the behavioural databases.