Somehow we're almost halfway through the field season... how does that happen? Although there's plenty to say about pelicans, I think I'm going to talk about gadgets instead.
It's hard to find any research in the modern natural sciences that doesn't rely on an array of different technologies, from camera traps to GPS units to speedy computers to the satellites that orbit the earth gathering vast quantities of information on the systems we study. We too often underappreciate our gadgets-- or, at least, to take them for granted until they go wrong. When you're back in the lab, it's easy to gripe about wasting a few hours because a data server is down or a piece of equipment needs service. In the field, though, gadgets (trucks, boats, ATVs, telemetry units) are your lifeblood-- if they don't work, you don't work. And we definitely ask a lot of our equipment.
Here are some of the many gadgets that go above and beyond for our project.
1) Ever wonder what a GPS transmitter and harness look like after two years on a pelican?
We recovered this PTT from an adult we had captured in 2013 that recently died of natural causes. GeoTrack has since refurbished it, and I will be bringing this unit (and a few others) out to southern California next week as part of the Refugio Oil Spill Response. I'll be helping the Oiled Wildlife Care Network study the movements of oiled pelicans that have been cleaned and released. I'm really excited to be able to contribute to this important project-- keep an eye out for details!
2) Ever wonder how to get a 250lb inflatable motorboat on a truck? Here's the story of Achilles, in twelve easy steps.
3) Ever wonder what pelicans' heartbeats say about them? We're working on it.
Heart rate is a great surrogate for energy expenditure, and with the current popularity of heart rate monitoring in personal training, it's easy to find a unit small enough to fit on a pelican chick. All we need to do now is adapt it from human to bird use. Easy? Well, maybe, if you have the right tools. And it takes a lot of tools.
4) And, of course, the mega-gadget without whom none of this would have been possible: Mako, our trusty Gulf-trotting boat.
Thanks for everything, gadgets