The Minerva Center for Movement Ecology promotes the establishment of an international field station for movement ecology research at the Hula Valley in northern Israel. A major facility in this field station is a cutting-edge, regional animal telemetry system called ATLAS (Advanced Tracking and Localization of Animals in real-life Systems) for tracking multiple individuals (hundreds to thousands) of various species at a high rate. The system tracks animals within the valley using Time-Of-Arrival (TOA) principles, unique tag-IDs for radio transmitters, ground stations with tower-mounted antennas, and central data-processing and storage servers. Radio transmissions sent from each animal-attached tag are received by several ground stations whose locations are known. The system uses time-of-arrival estimates to estimate the location of the animal and stores the location in a database. The system is currently operational on a limited scale and has been tracking animals since May 2014. Based on preliminary data, we expect that the system will be able to provide GPS-equivalent accuracy over the area of the Hula Valley with animal tag mass < 1 g, although most of the tags that we deployed are heavier due to the use of larger batteries. This allows researchers to track animals of various sizes, from as little as 15 – 20g.
The technological development team of the ATLAS includes Minerva Center for Movement Ecology members Sivan Toledo and Anthony Weiss and, together with Arie Yeredor (Tel-Aviv University), along with staff members and past and current students. Staffers and students who have been involved in the development of the technology include staff engineer Ari Lev-Or, lab manager Yotam Orchan, technician Yoav Bartan, past students Bruria Berger, Ronny Ziss, and Oren Kishon, and current students Adi Weller-Weiser, Itamar Melamed, and Avi Caciularu. Animal movement researchers that are taking part in the application include Minerva Center for Movement Ecology members Yossi Yovel, Arnon Lotem and Ran Nathan, Nir Sapir, Yoni Vortman, and Motti Charter. In addition, Mr. Robert MacCurdy is serving as a consultant to the ATLAS project due to his vast experience and proven expertise in designing and applying TOA systems for wildlife tracking (MacCurdy R, et al. 2009. Automatic Animal Tracking Using Matched Filters and Time Difference of Arrival. Journal of Communications 4:487-495).
Wildlife researchers and managers attach various electronic monitoring devices called tags to the animals they study. Our member Sivan Toledo is leading a project to develop lightweight wildlife-tracking tags that include a sophisticated, integrated RF transceiver and a microcontroller (MCU). These tags can be used in many ways, thanks to the flexibility afforded by the MCU and the transceiver. They can be used as simple unmodulated pingers, as coded pingers, or as RF proximity detectors (as in the Encounternet wildlife monitoring system).