“GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technology

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bentley7_7
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“GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technology

Post by bentley7_7 » March 28th, 2016, 4:12 pm

Hey guys! I’m working on a project I think would be of much interest to you all. I’m looking to study how Timber Rattlesnake foraging patterns and movements relate to geographic shifts in rodent population densities. Moreover, I hope to explore this topic further by looking at how these shifts in rodent densities are influenced by fluctuations in hardwood masting and forest composition on the species level. But one of the coolest parts about the study is that we plan to use GPS transmitters to track snakes and thus gain a much deeper understanding of how their spatial ecology relates to these other biological and ecological factors. Our GPS transmitters, custom designed by Telemetry Solutions, have a feature that will allow us to get a position-time fix every time a snake breaks a set threshold speed! Radio-telemetry is like a series of pictures, but GPS is like a video! There is so much potential to gain a more comprehensive understanding of these organisms with this technology. This application is absent in the literature, and just now are people trying to experiment with it. Who knows what new doors it will open, we just have to try it!

But here’s the catch… these GPS units are super expensive. We are trying to purchase 10 of them, and they cost $1,000 each. So in order to raise money for these units I am running a crowdfunding campaign, and I need all the help I can get. If you are interested in the project check out the website: http://gpsmyrattlesnake.org/

I’d love to here what you all think. Furthermore, any contributions to the project would be incredibly helpful. If you feel like supporting the project, visit our Indiegogo site to contribute - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gps- ... ake#/story
Another way to help out is to simply spread the word! Sharing this on social media and with friends/family/colleagues who might be interested would be greatly appreciated.

So let me know what you all think, and please consider supporting the project in anyway possible!


[url=https://flic.kr/p/Eqk9cj][img]http ... .jpg[/img]GPS My Rattlesnake by Alex Bentley, on Flickr[/url]
[url=https://flic.kr/p/EVtJRL][img]http ... .jpg[/img]Timber Headshot by Alex Bentley, on Flickr[/url]
[url=https://flic.kr/p/Fo41dR][img]http ... .jpg[/img]Timber with GPS by Alex Bentley, on Flickr[/url]
[url=https://flic.kr/p/FENvwz][img]http ... .jpg[/img]Pair of Timbers by Alex Bentley, on Flickr[/url]
[url=https://flic.kr/p/FmyfvC][img]http ... .jpg[/img]Young Timber In Situ by Alex Bentley, on Flickr[/url]
[url=https://flic.kr/p/FENHwg][img]http ... .jpg[/img]mom and babies by Alex Bentley, on Flickr[/url]

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klawnskale
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by klawnskale » March 28th, 2016, 4:37 pm

Alex: I am curious to know why this transmitter was designed to be attached externally on the snake's distal area of its body when the more traditional transmitters have been surgically implanted under the snake's skin. What are the technical advantages for placing this large transmitter externally on the study subject?

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by Bryan Hamilton » March 28th, 2016, 5:55 pm

Super cool!
klawnskale wrote:Alex: I am curious to know why this transmitter was designed to be attached externally on the snake's distal area of its body when the more traditional transmitters have been surgically implanted under the snake's skin. What are the technical advantages for placing this large transmitter externally on the study subject?
I'm guessing this allows the GPS to acquire a location fix from satellites.

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by chris_mcmartin » March 28th, 2016, 7:11 pm

bentley7_7 wrote:Radio-telemetry is like a series of pictures, but GPS is like a video! There is so much potential to gain a more comprehensive understanding of these organisms with this technology. This application is absent in the literature
Wasn't there a natural history note in one of the 2015 Herpetological Review issues about a GPS-tracked coachwhip? It was an interesting observation; went for many months. Don't know if it was an external or an internal GPS transmitter though.

ChadHarrison
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by ChadHarrison » March 29th, 2016, 5:10 am

Very cool project. However, I'm a bit puzzled by the placement of the unit. Won't an external GPS complicated ecdysis for the snake? On top of that, the mount appeared to simply be electrical tape. Won't you lose the unit once the snake sheds?

bentley7_7
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by bentley7_7 » March 29th, 2016, 6:49 am

klawnskale wrote:Alex: I am curious to know... What are the technical advantages for placing this large transmitter externally on the study subject?
With these transmitters the antenna is mounted directly on the circuit board, thus the entire unit must be placed externally to allow for connection with satellites. It is possible to get units with antennas that extend off of the circuit board, however this requires the entire unit to be much larger - too large for a Timber.
chris_mcmartin wrote:Wasn't there a natural history note in one of the 2015 Herpetological Review issues about a GPS-tracked coachwhip? It was an interesting observation; went for many months. Don't know if it was an external or an internal GPS transmitter though.
I was not aware of this note in Herp Review! I haven't been able to find anything about this online, is there an electronic copy of the note? Are you sure it was GPS and not ARU or something else?
ChadHarrison wrote:Very cool project. However, I'm a bit puzzled... Won't you lose the unit once the snake sheds?
The GPS transmitter will not affect the snake's ability to properly carry out ecdysis. The unit will be shed with the snake's skin, however we plan to work with large, older individuals that will be shedding infrequently. When shedding does occur snakes will ideally be relocated soon thereafter and the unit will be reattached. The video features a model GPS attached to the rattlesnake's rattle with tape. That exact technique will actually not be used, we now plan to use epoxy and light weight zip ties, though we are still testing different options and the exact attachment method is subject to change. Any suggestions?

ChadHarrison
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by ChadHarrison » March 29th, 2016, 7:07 am

Epoxy is a nightmare to work with. I used it in the field on Ornate Box Turtles, marking new study animals. I can't imagine how much of a pain in the ass it would be to use on the body of a snake. Although, I do think an adhesive is going to be your best bet for mounting the unit. Any sort of restrictive device like a zip tie or tape could be harmful to the snakes, internally. At the very least, the added discomfort could alter the behavior of the snake.

By singling out the older adults and not tracking younger males and non-gravid females, you'll be missing out on valuable data. But then again, I suppose I'm not exactly familiar with the specifics of your study. It just sounds to me like that would be some pretty critical information.

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klawnskale
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by klawnskale » March 29th, 2016, 7:39 am

[quote=

The GPS transmitter will not affect the snake's ability to properly carry out ecdysis. The unit will be shed with the snake's skin, however we plan to work with large, older individuals that will be shedding infrequently. When shedding does occur snakes will ideally be relocated soon thereafter and the unit will be reattached. The video features a model GPS attached to the rattlesnake's rattle with tape. That exact technique will actually not be used, we now plan to use epoxy and light weight zip ties, though we are still testing different options and the exact attachment method is subject to change. Any suggestions?[/quote]

What about cyannoacrilate (Crazy Glue). it was originally developed to be applied to wounded human skin at the front lines of battle as a temporary closure for open wounds. If it is safe for human skin could it be safe for snakeskin? It can be found OTC as "Liquid Bandage" or you can use the more concentrated adhesive version. Both can be removed with dilute forms of acetone. I guess you could test its durability and ease of removal on a piece of snakeskin.

bentley7_7
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by bentley7_7 » March 29th, 2016, 7:55 am

Actually the units will not be attached to the body of the snake, we plan to attach them to snakes' rattles. Therefore snakes bodies will not be restricted or affected. It is true that we will miss some data by not tracking younger snakes, but at this point that is simply not possible with this technology. The hope is to develop this technological application to where that will be possible one day! In terms cyannoacrilate, I'll definitely look into it, sounds like it could be good material to use!

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lateralis
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by lateralis » March 29th, 2016, 6:22 pm

A novel approach and I have a few questions:
How will this GPS unit affect the snakes ability to use it's rattle ?
Rattles are notoriously fragile so do you anticipate loss of your GPS units?
Will the snakes be able to escape predators with that unit dragging behind them?
Can the signal intercepted by other parties?

Definitely less invasive than internal transmitters but I am still wrestling with how much stress this may cause vs data quality/quantity.

Cheers

bentley7_7
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by bentley7_7 » March 29th, 2016, 6:52 pm

lateralis wrote:A novel approach and I have a few questions... but I am still wrestling with how much stress this may cause vs data quality/quantity.
Snakes are actually still able to rattle with these units attached. But even if rattling ability was somewhat compromised, the degree of current utility experienced from rattling is debatable. Many think that rattles don't really benefit snakes that much any more. Snakes with transmitters may experience loss of their rattles, however this often happens naturally, and rattles will regenerate eventually anyway. If this does happen the GPS can be easily recovered (so long as it's not deep in some crevice - lets hope that doesn't happen!). Other studies using external attachment have reported normal predation rates, and have indicated that external attachment does not significantly impede normal locomotion. GPS fixes are logged in the unit itself, then transferred wirelessly when our base station is within 40 meters of the transmitter, making it impossible for that information to be obtained by anyone without the base station.

Thanks for inquiring about the project, I hope this is answers your questions, and let me know if you have any more!!!

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Nshepard
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by Nshepard » March 31st, 2016, 7:52 am

Can anyone provide a citation for the GPS tracking of a Coachwhip in Herp Review? Greatly appreciated, thanks!

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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 6th, 2016, 6:39 pm

Nshepard wrote:Can anyone provide a citation for the GPS tracking of a Coachwhip in Herp Review? Greatly appreciated, thanks!
I mis-remembered. I found it in the June 2015 issue, and unfortunately (for purposes of this discussion) the snake was radio-tracked, not GPS-tracked.

bentley7_7
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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by bentley7_7 » April 7th, 2016, 5:19 am

chris_mcmartin wrote: I mis-remembered... the snake was radio-tracked, not GPS-tracked.
Thanks for clarifying that, Chris!

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Re: “GPS My Rattlesnake” - Tracking Snakes Using New Technol

Post by dthor68 » May 2nd, 2016, 3:37 pm

Seems like that would be very stressful to all but a 20' python, maybe not quite as stressful as putting a bag on a cats head, but. Do you think that this GPS is going to give us some information that we don't already know? There is nothing really complicated about the life of a rattlesnake. They need food, water, shelter, hibernaculum and most of all to stay away from Bubba, housing developments, roads and anyone that might want a pet. I can actually learn a lot about them just from the behaviors I see when I find them. I understand that the human mind needs to know and if you could paint a picture for everyone, including Bubba, than maybe it could help them to survive. I am all for that!

Sorry I cant help you financially. I can tell you right now that there is not $1,000.00 worth of material in that small package. I would be surprised if there is more than $30.00 of material there. They charge a grand because they can, like our health care. If you have any friends in China, they could probably copy it for 50 bucks a piece.

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