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date: 07 October 2022

History of Wildlife Tracking Technologieslocked

History of Wildlife Tracking Technologieslocked

  • Kristoffer WhitneyKristoffer WhitneyRochester Institute of Technology


Technologies for wildlife tracking in a systematic way by scientists and other naturalists have their origins in the mid-19th century. Tagging and banding systems for fish and birds are exemplary of this: Both were used by late-19th- and early 20th-century biologists to gather data on the populations and migrations of a wide variety of species considered commercially useful or scientifically interesting. These tracking systems were deployed by networks of professional and amateur naturalists, working with a number of institutions integral to natural history work at the time: government agencies, birding and hunting groups, zoos, museums, and universities. By the mid- to late 20th century, wildlife tracking had expanded to include a wider array of species for a number of reasons. Technologically, electronic surveillance equipment from early radio telemetry to modern satellite tracking allowed for more animals to be tracked in ever more precise ways. Culturally and politically, the environmental movement and endangered species programs brought more attention to the plight of nongame or non-commercially valuable species. In the process, traditional biological disciplines were reshaped, and new subfields such as movement and acoustic ecology have emerged. And although the plethora of knowledge generated about wildlife in the past century and a half may prove to be a key component in environmental conservation in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, there are a number of ethical issues emerging from the history of wildlife tracking technologies to be addressed as well.


  • Environmental History

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