If it swims, flies, walks or climbs, researchers will likely be presenting data on its habits and haunts at the Third International Biologging Science Symposium to be held September 1-5 at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, Calif.
"Biologging" is the use of electronic sensors, implanted or attached to animals, to track and record their movements, behaviors, physical setting and physiological state in the wild. This research, made possible in recent decades through the development of compact and lightweight microprocessors, is providing scientists with an unprecedented view into the lives and activities of highly migratory species on land, in the sea and in the air. Biologging has taken scientists where humans have never been able to go-riding on the backs of penguins, leatherback sea turtles, bluefin tuna and even jellyfish, learning for the first time not only where they go, but also what their environment is like. In more recent years, scientists have been able to ask ever more subtle questions about these animals' physiology and behavior, allowing an even more intimate understanding of how they function, and how they fit into the ecosystem around them.
The international symposium was organized and is co-hosted by Barbara Block, the Prothro Professor of Marine Sciences at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Lab in Pacific Grove; Dan Costa, a professor of biology and evolutionary biology at the University of California-Santa Cruz; and Steven Bograd from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Environmental Research Division.
More than 130 researchers from 20 different nations will present the most recent findings in this rapidly developing discipline. Symposium sessions will focus on biologging-technology advances, animal behavior, methods of monitoring physiology, climate change, habitat preferences and utilization, and new multi-species observatory networks that take a snapshot of the entire ecosystem. There will also be a special session focused on how biologging data is being applied to conservation and management of wildlife and ecosystems to protect the ocean's most endangered inhabitants.
Technology presentations will include new GPS technologies, as well as acoustic "business card" tags that network with each other, exchanging and storing information when animals bearing them come within detection range of each other. Results from a pilot study on sand sharks will be presented. Early studies on juvenile hawksbill turtles and Japanese eels tagged with Micro Data Loggers, the latest in small-tag technology, also are scheduled to be presented.
The bulk of the presentations will focus on marine life, ranging from whales and penguins to sea otters and swordfish, but studies on a few land animals such as cougars and koalas will be included.
Not only does biologging provide researchers data on the animals themselves, it also can gather environmental data. Elephant seals, for example, have relayed data on temperature, salinity and depth conditions under the Antarctic ice shelf, enabling researchers to calculate the rate of sea ice formation under the shelf. The integration of animal-derived data into global oceanographic datasets is offering new opportunities to a broader research community, including physical and chemical oceanographers as well as ocean and climate modelers.
Other biologging studies have gathered data on whether sonar plays a role in mass beachings of beaked whales, or whether captive-bred sea turtles and farmed fish are able to survive in the ocean to the same degree as their counterparts raised in the wild. Another study utilizes tiny accelerometers attached to the jaws of predators to calculate their food intake by measuring the opening and closing of their jaws. Still another uses a 3-D version of an accelerometer to record postures and movements of nurse shark courtship and mating.
To read more about the symposium, including the program and presentation abstracts, please visit http://biologging.