Wildlife Tracking Home

Computer Aided Observation of Behaviors of
Nocturnal Animals in the Wild

Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell (Department of Biology, UNCG)
Sebastian Pauli (Department of Mathematics and Statistics, UNCG)

We are interested in measuring behaviors of wild bats and mice. Bats and mice are interesting because they use ultrasound as part of their behavioral repertoire. Bats use ultrasound for echolocation and communication. Mice use ultrasound for communication. A major difficulty in studying behaviors of bats and mice is that they are nocturnal and cannot be directly observed. We have developed remote sensing techniques to record the behaviors of free living wild bats and mice without disturbing their behavior.

Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell in her field work has collected hundreds of nights of infrared video of bats and mice. Animals are outfitted with radio transmitters to allow identification of individuals. Microphones, are placed in the observation area to record animal vocalizations. The video, audio, and identity data together contains a wealth of information, but these data need to be processed and compiled to make conclusive observations of behavior patterns. Because of the amount of data, specialized processing computer processing methods need to be developed.

We are using computer vision techniques, such as blob tracking, to process video data. This allows us to automatically track the movement of free living animals. Automated tracking enables us, for example, to measure the speed of free-living individuals for the first time under different biolotic and abiotic contexts. For example, we can test hypotheses about the speed of animals in the context of varying predation predation pressure, interspecific interactions, intraspecific interactions and ambient conditions. The two species of mice we are currently examining differ markedly in their mating system. The brush mouse (Peromyscus boylii) is promiscuous and the California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) is monogamous.

Reports on the Project