Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Little Non-Fiction: An Abstract for My Graduate Thesis

Time for something a little different. As I've mentioned, I'm a wildlife graduate student so I though I would share part of my research. This is an abstract I used for a conference where I presented some preliminary results from the elk portion of my study. Enjoy!

A couple of my ladies.
Ungulate behavior has been widely studied, however directly observing activity of multiple, free-ranging animals over long periods of time and large geographic areas has been prohibitively difficult. Recent improvements in technology, such as motion-sensitive activity monitors coupled with GPS collars, provide researchers with an alternative means of collecting activity data. Variations in motion associated with different activities necessitate calibration for each species of interest. To date, no calibration has been conducted for dual axis activity monitors for Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni). We conducted controlled field trials to collect detailed behavior observations of collared tame elk. We then used discriminant function analysis to couple our field observations with data collected by the activity monitors worn by the elk in order to determine what behaviors can be accurately classified. Preliminary results indicate that collar output can be used to distinguish among passive (i.e., lying down and standing still), feeding (i.e., grazing and browsing), and running (i.e. trotting and galloping) behaviors but that finer scale classification (e.g., between grazing and browsing) may not be possible. Better understanding the capabilities and limitations of these activity monitors will allow researchers to better design and interpret future behavior studies for Rocky Mountain elk.


  1. Fascinating stuff. Big fan of researching behaviors. :)

  2. Thanks David. It's a good project and I'm lucky to have it.

  3. By learning the behaviors of a few individuals, how can this information be applied to management of entire herds?

  4. Well Luciano, that's an excellent question. Since elk are herd animals, if we know what a few members of a herd are doing at any given time, we can get a pretty good idea of what the other members of the herd are doing. At that point, data from these collars could be used to answer any number of questions such as how the animals respond to predator reintroductions or habitat change.


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