“A Step Forward for Avian Conservation Studies: MOTUS at the BCC”

Written By: Ashlyn Doudna

Malone University is, among many other attributes, a university that never stops finding new ways to grow. The Herbert W. Foundation has granted Malone with the funds to bring Malone University’s Marine Biology students down to south Florida for work-field and research experience. One of the main points this community wants to show is the connectivity between Stark County and South Florida through its waterways. The project shows what we do here in our water does not just stay here. This year though, Malone University went searching for a new approach to demonstrate this connectivity. This is where MOTUS comes in. MOTUS, a latin word meaning “a movement,” is also the name of an “international collaborative research network that uses a coordinated automated radio telemetry array to track the movement and behaviour of small flying organisms” (https://motus.org) This tracking system, with over 350 receiving stations, is now being implemented into the same project of connectivity by Malone University. The system is a new approach to showing the way our environments interact and affect each other even if they are quite far from one another.

On Jan. 8th, the MOTUS Wildlife Track-ing System was set up on the top of our very own Brehme Centennial Center. Along with a representative from Bird Studies Canada, there were a lot of helping hands there that day. James Shaffer (Sr Network Engineer and Security), Benny Mendoza (Zoo and Wildlife Biology Research Student), Jason Brannon (Physical Plant Department), and Jason Courter (assistant professor of biology) all played a part in the installation. “It was a collaborative effort among the departments” said Shaffer. Brannon was the brain behind finding a location that was high enough to mount the antenna to provide maximum range. He also helped in mount-ing the equipment and installing the device. Shaffer brought internet connectivity to the system. Courter and Benny Mendoza were hands-on when it came to installing.If you know Jason Courter, you likely know of his passion for birds. He and Mendoza are looking forward to expanding this project in the near future, but first, they are starting with Malone’s activity. When asked about Mendoza’s interest with MOTUS and how he will implement it into his research, he brought up the frequent visitors to Malone University’s campus– Red Tailed Hawks. “They have sort of charismatic/iconic attributes and would make a great tool for ecological education,” said Benny Mendoza, Junior Zoo and Wildlife Biology major.Mendoza and Courter would like to eventually tag and track these hawks, so that we can begin to understand and educate ourselves on the birds that are all around us. “They are birds a lot of students are curious about,” said Courter. “They eat squirrels on campus. We are interested in their movement patterns and how and when they move. I feel like this system could help us find these things out.” Courter and Mendoza’s project could lead to tagging and tracking the birds in our own area in the near future. Courter even hinted at an interest in using this tech-nology to track rehabilitated animals survival rates once they are released back into the wild. The possibilities for this project seem to be endless. As for right now, Malone University is serving an important role by helping MO-TUS collect data by hosting this receiving station. It is certain that this technology is just a stepping-stone into the next phase for Mendoza and Courter. The ideas have not stop forming on how they might use this software to expand on Malone’s Zoo and Wildlife Biology program, specifically Avian Conservation and animal movement patterns. “This system might put Malone University on the map as far as Avian Conservation is involved,” said Mendoza. “This is a special opportunity for Malone, especially for students interested in avian and general migratory research. I know Dr. Courter himself is really excited as a special-ist in ornithology.” The MOTUS system is the first step of showing how our area, “the Malone Bubble”, is connected to so much more through our environment.

LXIV Issue No. 12

February 11 2019

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