You wouldn’t expect turtles to have the need for solar power and internet access, but some of the critters are now getting all wired up for a research experiment, according to scientists from the University of Massachusetts. In an ecological experiment taking place along the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts, two teams of researchers including computer engineers and biologists have begun testing a new wireless communication network to track wildlife: cheekily named the Turtlenet.
The team of Mark D. Corner, Emery D. Berger, and Brian Levine with biologist Michael Jones had a simple idea, to create a network to track small endangered animals, in a manner similar to an experiment being done in Africa to track zebras. Rather than wading through the murky swamps looking for the previously marked turtles, hoping that the batteries on the radio receivers haven’t died, the scientists have attached a very small solar powered computer outfitted with a GPS beacon and a wi-fi connection to the snapping turtles. When a turtle gets within range to another turtle, the computers will swap information with one another, with the idea being that one of them will get close enough to a base station in order to download the information to the project’s servers.
While the snapping turtles are not on the list of endangered species yet, the scientists hope that by using this information they can develop strategies to keep them from ever becoming endangered. ‘We’re trying to get a better idea of their range, the routes they take and where they hibernate,’ said Michael Jones, who is working on a doctoral degree in biology. ‘If you have that information for a good number of turtles, you can predict what their patterns will be for the next 50 years or so.’
+ Turtles to Test Wireless Network