satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Satellite Tag Backpack for a Laysan Albatross

FOAM's July 23 post was entitled "The Albatross are Gone!...but Where?"  We learned that satellite tags attached to Laysan Albatross sent information about where they were.  A map showed us the locations of 2 birds in April 2009.

Naturally, I was really excited when John Klavitter, Manager and Biologist of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, asked if I'd like to see satellite tags attached to a few of this year's albatross fledglings (chicks)!!

In the lefthand picture above I'm holding a transmitter so you can see the entire thing.  It's like a small backpack with thin straps.  The closeup picture shows what the actual satellite tag, or transmitter, looks like.  You can't really see it in detail because it's all wrapped up in black electrical tape for protection.  It's small, about the size of a pack of gum.  The USFWS doesn't use anything that weighs more than 3% of what an albatross weighs.  In both pictures you can see the antenna, which is about 8" long.

John (on the left) and Biological Technician Greg Schubert (right) look for just the right "candidate" fledgling.  They look for a healthy, full-size albatross.  When they find it, they work together quickly and carefully to put the satellite tag backpack on the bird.  It's sort of like helping someone put on a jacket.  They make sure the transmitter fits snugly against the bird's body and the straps go between rows of feathers.  Looks like a good fit!

Can you spot the satellite tag on the albatross in the picture below?!  No? --that's because John and Greg did such a good job!  I'll bet all you can see, if you look closely, is the transmitter's antenna.  This bird is all set; it's ready to fly away from Midway Atoll!  As it flies, the satellite tag will transmit information about where it is.  And the battery is good for a whole year!


unclety said...

Since this is a "satelite" transmitter, is there any geographic range associated with it?

Is it also able to provide any other infomation such as altitude?

Does it provide continuous, live streaming data; periodic data dumps of stream data such as once a week or satelite over pass in which case memory is needed, or maybe it provides spot data such as where it is every hour on the hour.

How hard would it be for a sailboat to get one of these?

Barb said...

Hhhmmmmm, good questions!

Here's what I know now: it doesn't provide continuous data. During a 24-hour day, it puts out information on its location for 2, 4-hour periods. That means it transmits for 4 hours, is off for 8, transmits another 4, and then off another 8. I'm guessing that one 4-hour period is in daylight, while the other is at night.

Also, I'm pretty sure it doesn't transmit any other info, like altitude. That would be interesting, huh?!

I'll check on this information and get back to you, hopefully later today.

Barb said...

I've found out that the satellite transmitter only sends geological location, not altitude of the albatross. Sure would be interesting to see how high, as well as where, these birds are!

Still checking on the geological range of the transmitters.......