Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Questions to consider when planning the tracking of albatrosses and petrels by satellite or GPS

David Latham (Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand) and colleagues have pre-published in next year’s New Zealand Journal of Ecology on matters to consider when planning the tracking of wildlife by satellite or GPS.  ACAP-listed species considered in the paper are the Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi, White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi and Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“GPS and satellite technology for studies on wildlife have improved substantially over the past decade.  It is now possible to collect fine-scale location data from migratory animals, animals that have previously been too small to deploy GPS devices on, and other difficult-to-study species. Often researchers and managers have formatted well-defined ecological or conservation questions prior to deploying GPS on animals, whereas other times it is arguably done simply because the technology is now available to do so.  We review and discuss six important interrelated questions that should be addressed when planning a study requiring location data.  Answers will clarify whether GPS technology is required and whether its use would increase efficiency of data collection and learning from location data. Specifically, what are the required: (1) ecological question(s); (2) frequency and duration of data collection; (3) sample size; (4) hardware (VHF or GPS or satellite) and accessories; (5) environmental data; and (6) data-management and analysis procedures?  This approach increases the chance that the appropriate technology will be deployed, budgets will be realistic, and data will be sufficient (but not excessive) to answer the ecological questions of interest.   The expected results are important advances in ecological science and evidence-based management decisions.”

A Northern Royal Albatross chick approaches fledging on New Zealand's Taiaroa Head


Latham, A.D.M., Latham, M.C., Anderson, D.P., Cruz, J., Herries, D. & Hebblewhite, M. 2015.  The GPS craze: six questions to address before deciding to deploy GPS technology on wildlife.  New Zealand Journal of Ecology 39.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 November 2014