For our “Wildlife Observation and Monkey Tracking” class, we played hide-n-seek in the Washington Square Park area with a radio receiver, Yagi-Uda antenna, and 3 radio collars. We split into 4 groups (3 hiders and 1 seeker group), and set a time constraint of 30 minutes to see how fast the seeker could detect and track down the hiders.
I was in the first seeker group, so we had the biggest challenge of having to track 3 different radio frequencies at the same time (148.198, 148.240, and 148.179). Our best solution was to manually rotate through the frequencies every 20-30 seconds on our radio receiver to see if we could detect any beeps. Once we figured out how to turn up the gain, with Tom’s help, we were able to detect 2 of the 3 groups in the area.
After about 10 minutes, we found a group running across the street, but it wasn’t the group we were receiving beeps from on our receiver. We heard later that the group we were originally tracking was sitting in a Starbucks about 20 feet away (a student’s natural habitat!).
We had to use all of our senses to scan the environment. At times, visual and auditory cues served us almost as well as the radio antenna. I imagine this is also the case in the Amazon forest when primatologists are using telemetry to find monkeys tagged with radio collars.
One of the biggest gaps I found was the lack of visual signals from the radio receiver. I think this system could be vastly improved if it had LED lights to indicate signal strength, especially in a dark forest canopy, as well as other bright colored visualizations to get the tracker’s attention when a monkey is in range.