• Scientists outfit south Georgia gators with tracking devices

    FOLKSTON, Ga. (AP) - Researchers are using tracking devices with the aim of better understanding how female alligators slide through a south Georgia swamp.

    Tracking devices have been fitted on gators named Sweet Audrey Laine and Cypress, The Savannah Morning News reported .

    The goal is to learn more about how female alligators use the Okefenokee Swamp ecosystem - and how their home ranges vary throughout the year.

    "There have been a lot of studies done on males," said Kristen Zemaitis, a research technician and graduate student at The University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology. "We want to home in on the females and see how they're behaving both during a nesting year and outside a nesting year."

    Scientists are also interested in the gators' home ranges, and activity around their nests.

    "How many hours a day are these females guarding their nest?" Zemaitis said. "That is a behavior that's very common. Is it certain times day and how is that related to predation?"

    The nonprofit group Ocearch, which has tagged great white sharks and tracked their movements, added both alligators to its global tracking site . That means people can go online and check in on the data as it is being collected.

    The organization's Twitter feeds are another way the researchers will share information, including video clips from wildlife cameras. One of those located near a nest captured images recently of a black bear sniffing a gator nest before being scared away by the mama gator's warning snort.

    "We think that alligators are so cool and we're so excited about what we're learning out here that we don't want to just share that with the scientific community we want that to be an experience that is integrated with the public," said Kimberly Andrews, research faculty at UGA Odum School of Ecology. "So that we are learning alongside these animals and using technology like satellite tags and the wildlife cameras at nests. These allow us to learn together in near real time."

    For the alligator project, the tags are set to provide a location every four hours, with Zemaitis analyzing the data for her master's thesis. A VHF radio component in the tag allows the researchers to find the gators in real time if needed.


    Information from: Savannah Morning News, http://www.savannahnow.com

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