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Wildlife Tracking System Installed

December 14, 2022 02:28 PM

A new, groundbreaking effort to study animal migrations and connect researchers, scientists and students to real-time migratory data across the globe is underway. Lake County is one of the newest links in the chain.

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) uses automated radio telemetry to study the movements of birds, bats and large insects. Tiny, digitally encoded tags are safely attached to an animal and detected by receiving stations on the landscape. Stations come in many configurations, but at their basic level consist of a radio receiver, one or more antennas and a power supply. 

The newest local site now operational is at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. The station was funded through grants from the Margot Merrick Fund and the Annual Fund of the Preservation Foundation, the charitable partner of the Lake County Forest Preserves. Chain O’ Lakes State Park and Illinois Beach State Park also host stations.

"We’re thrilled to be part of this international collaborative research network that focuses on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals,” Director of Education Nan Buckardt said. “What’s gained is invaluable, real-time migration mapping information that provides insights into the animals’ journeys, which can be used collaboratively in scientific research, conservation efforts and education.”

This method of tracking involves using nanotags weighing as little as 0.15 grams and measuring smaller than a paperclip. They can be used on bees, butterflies, dragonflies and diminutive bird species.

Recent assessments report that one-third of North America’s bird populations are at risk, and pollinators, such as native bees and monarch butterflies, are in decline, Buckardt said. Almost 300 species of avian adventurers have been tagged for Motus tracking, crisscrossing continents on their annual trips and potentially passing 1,558 receiving stations installed across the Americas.

“Motus is the ultimate hands-on community science project with real-world impacts both globally and locally here in Lake County,” Buckardt said. Learn more about the technology in this video.

Facts about Motus

  • 34 countries have Motus receiver stations
  • There are 1,558 Motus receiver stations
  • 306 species have been tagged
  • 36,322 animals have been tagged
  • There are 1,620 Motus partners and collaborators