Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking, Part III: Land

Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking, Part III: Land

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>> Shellie Pick: Hello, and welcome to Women on the Move, technology and animal tracking. Did you know that even though   women make up half the world only 30 percent , or one-third, of all scientists are women?   All week we've been lucky to hear  and learn from Smithsonian women   who use STEM, or science technology engineering  and math, to track animals across land sea and sky ecosystems. On Monday, we met Kim and Sarah who  track fish and whales in aquatic habitats.   

On Wednesday, we learned how Autumn-Lynn tracks  birds flying through the air and we even met   a zoo keeper and some pelican friends. Today, we are  closing out the series, and we are so excited to be   celebrating Earth Day 2022 with all of you. Can  you guess where we'll be tracking animals today?   My name is Shellie, I'm an educator at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation   Biology Institute in Washington, DC. My pronouns  are she/her/hers, and I'll be your host for today.   This series was made possible by the American  Women's History Initiative, and is a collaborative   event between the Smithsonian's National  Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute,   the Environmental Research Center, and the Earth  Optimism Initiative. During this program, you   will gain knowledge of wildlife and wild places,  understand the roles of two Smithsonian women   in STEM, and learn how tracking is saving  these terrestrial species. Before we meet   our guests for today, you're going to see two  polls pop up on your screen. But first, how are  

you celebrating Earth Day today? Maybe by watching  this webinar, exploring outside, going bird watching,   cleaning up your neighborhood, or something  else! Let us know by putting it in the chat. The second question is, if you joined one of our  previous programs this week what was your favorite   species you heard about? The river herring, baleen  whales, the brown pelicans, or maybe the arctic tern!  While you take some time to answer those polls, I'm  going to go over the format of our program today.   This webinar is live captioned, you'll want  to locate that CC button at the bottom of the   screen for those to appear. We have both English  and Spanish captioning available for this series.  

To access the Spanish live captioning,  the link will be provided in the chat.  This program is also being interpreted in two  languages. To access the Spanish translation,   locate that globe icon and select Spanish. You can  see that we are also being interpreted in American   Sign Language, this view is best viewed from a  desktop computer rather than a tablet or phone.   If you are having trouble with any of our  services, please chat us so we can assist you.   Remember this is a webinar, so we cannot see  or hear you. However, we encourage you to engage  

with us in a number of ways! You already saw  that we'll be launching polls throughout the   program today. Additionally, you'll see that  the q&a is open for you to ask us questions.   Use the q&a at any time throughout the program  to ask questions. Try to keep them on topic, and   you can check under the my questions column to  see if your question has already been answered.

You'll see that you can also use the emoji  reactions, so find that button and I want you   to send me a big thumbs up if you are excited to  celebrate Earth Day today! Oh I'm seeing so many already! Today's program will be about 45 minutes,  with an additional 15 minutes at the end for a   live q&a where we will get to as many questions  as we can. Educators, if you are streaming for your   whole class be sure to keep your keyboard close  by to chime in on their behalf. And lastly you'll   see that the chat is open for you to message us. If you haven't done so already, find the chat and   I want you to tell me your name and where you  are joining us from. I am so curious to see who   is trekking, virtually, the farthest! Let's see where  folks are joining from. We have, uh, Langley school  

is joining, and they said they're gonna plant  flowers! I love that, that's such a good Earth Day   activity. Welcome Peter from Wisconsin. Welcome, we  have folks joining from Nebraska, from Edgewater   Maryland but originally from Ecuador, wow! We have  folks joining from Toronto, Ontario, and Canada.   Let's see who else is joining, we have folks from  Arlington Virginia, New York. Amazing! Oh, somebody's   going to the Cleveland Zoo that's a great way  to celebrate Earth Day! Lake Tahoe, California.   Let's see who else...Oh Olivia's joining us all  the way from New Zealand! We have Colorado Springs,  

uh Beaver Dam Virginia...Hello from Maryland! That is  so exciting to have folks joining from all around   the globe on this Earth Day 2022. I also want to  quickly introduce my team who is helping behind   the scenes today. Joining us from the Smithsonian  Environmental Research Center, which you might also   hear us call SERC, we have Karen, Emily, Lizzie, and  Shelby. And joining us today from the zoo, we have   Erika, Kaden, Hanna, and Emily. You might see some  answers or responses from them in the chat and q&a.   So once again, welcome to Women on the  Move technology and animal tracking. I am  

so thrilled to welcome our first guest to the  program, Dr. Katherine Mertes. Welcome! Would you like   to introduce yourself? >>Dr.Katherine Mertes: Hi everyone, I'm Dr. Katherine  Mertes, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I'm a   research ecologist at the Smithsonian's National  Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. >> Shellie: That is so   neat, thank you for joining! Can you quickly tell us  what a research ecologist is, I think that might be   a new term for many of our viewers. >>Dr.Katherine: Sure! It means  I work on practical conservation projects to  

save species and conserve biodiversity, but I also  conduct scientific research on ecology questions.   So, for me, that means researching animal movement,  seeing where animals go in space, and analyzing   their movement behavior and habitat preferences.  >> Shellie: That's so neat. So I heard you say animal movements,   um, and seeing where animals choose to spend  their time. Audience, we've heard a lot about  

animal movements this week, mostly talking about  migrating animals. Um, so try to recall as much   as you can while I launch this poll, what do you  think are some reasons that, um, Dr. Katherine might   study some animal movements? What are some reasons  that animals might move to a different habitat?   Maybe it's food availability, predators, change  in climate, the closeness or proximity of humans,   or for reproduction and breeding! Feel free  to answer in the poll, or put it in the chat.   We're getting tons of responses already, I'll  give folks another few seconds on that poll.  

And just so you're aware, um, Emily is dropping some  explanations of some, um, more difficult terms in   the chat so if you don't know what something means  look in the chat. Great, I'm gonna close this poll   in three, two, one. Let's see...alright Dr. Katherine,  most people said pretty much all of them, but   top contenders were food availability and change  in climate. What do you think? >>Dr. Katherine: Well I would say that  

all of these options are correct. All animals need to  move to find enough to eat to survive themselves,   and to reproduce and support their offspring,  to avoid predators, and to find mates. And they   make choices about where to move to find all  these resources based on the information that's   available to them wherever they are. So I use  data on environmental factors like vegetation   conditions, rainfall, and temperature to understand  the movement decisions that animals are making.   >> Shellie: Very, very, neat and so what species are  you currently studying and tracking?   >>Dr. Katherine: So I track two species of African hoof stock,   scimitar-horned oryx and addax. >>Shellie: Oh wow, oh!   That's, they're so cute! Um, they look a  little bit similar, but I am noticing   some differences, and I would love for our  audience to put some observations in the chat.  

Can you notice any similarities or differences  between these two different African hoof stock?  You can see...Yes Isaac, exactly, their horns  are different. You can sort of see that the   addax, they almost have a little curve to them  whereas the scimitar-horned oryx goes straight   back. Yes folks are getting them, oh Alex did say  that their colors are just slightly different.   Yes Denise, you got it too the horns and  coloring are slightly different, that's great!   So why are you studying these specific species? >>Dr. Katherine: Well, scimitar-horned oryx are actually classified  

as extinct in the wild by the IUCN Red List.  And addax are critically endangered, there's   probably less than 200 left in the wild so by  knowing where these animals move, how they use   space, and what habitats they prefer, we learn  what areas and habitats we need to protect   to conserve them. >>Shellie: I, I thought I heard you just  say that the scimitar-horned oryx was extinct   in the wild. Viewers, if you know what the word  extinct means put it in the chat, because when   I hear the word extinct, I think of our dinosaur  friends. Let's see what folks think extinct means... Oh yes, Langley got it, you are  all getting it. Absolutely Isaac,   extinct means there's none left so there  were no oryx left in the wild Dr. Katherine?  

>>Dr. Katherine: That's right, the very last sighting of oryx in the  wild occurred sometime in the 1980s and the only   oryx left in the world lived in places like zoos.  >> Shellie: Wow, so none left in the wild. So, how did it get   to this point? Why have they become extinct in  the wild? >>Dr. Katherine: Well, oryx were historically hunted in  

their native range in North and Central Africa,  but World War II really brought 4x4 vehicles   and advanced firearms to Northern Africa which led  to unsustainable levels of hunting on the species.   Oryx started disappearing from their native  range in the 1930s, and they were last seen in   the wild in the 1980s, and then declared extinct  in the wild in the 2000s. >>Shellie: Oh wow, so by 1980 there were   no more oryx seen in, in the wild. But, I know that you are  currently working with them so there are some left   somewhere? >>Dr. Katherine: That's right! There were more than  10,000 oryx in zoos and private collections   around the world so it was possible to reintroduce  this species from captive populations. We released  

the first 23 oryx into a large reserve in Chad  in 2016 and we've released more than 240 so far.   >>Shellie: That's amazing, and again I just want to repeat  how amazing this story is. So from 1980 to 2016   there were NO oryx seen in the wild, but because  of zoos like the National Zoo and Conservation   Biology Institute, we were able to breed them and  eventually reintroduce them into places like Chad.

Personally, having worked with many zoo animals  before,I know that a lot of our animals are   probably used to humans. They know their keepers,  and their animal care staff, so I imagine you   can't just release any oryx back into the wild.  Can you walk us through this, uh, process a little bit?  >>Dr. Katherine: Yes! So all the oryx we've reintroduced in  Chad come from the captive population managed   by the environment agency Abu Dhabi in the United  Arab Emirates. So this population is very carefully   managed for breeding and genetic diversity, and  animals are tested and immunized for lots of   different diseases, and potential candidates for  reintroduction are selected every year. And then  

transported to Chad in groups of 25. >>Shellie: Why 25? >>Dr. Katherine: Because that's how many oryx you can fit on a cargo plane!   >>Shellie: Very efficient! Got it, so in groups of 25  they're selected, the ones that we think   would make great candidates for return to the  wild, um, and shift over. That's really, really neat.   And once they're shipped over and then  they're released, and, um, I believe we have   a really neat video of one of the first  releases of the oryx, let's take a look. So this is just preparing, I'm guessing, wow. >>Dr. Katherine: So  these are crates that animals are transported in.   They're loaded one animal to a crate in  Abu Dhabi. And then the crates are loaded  

onto the cargo plane, and they have about a  seven hour flight. And then they land in Chad   and are transported by truck to the release  site where...they get to come out! >>Shellie: There they go! That is unbelievable. *gasp* Oh wow! That is SO incredible Dr. Katherine! I get so emotional to seeing animals  that, again, were extinct in the wild,   being released, and it just gives so much  hope for so many other endangered species.  

And, again, you know, uh, why our zoo populations  are so important for conservation. So can you   tell us why you are tracking the oryx once you  release them? >>Dr. Katherine: Absolutely, so we track almost every   single newly released oryx to see where they go  after they're released into the wild, and how they   respond to this completely new, totally unfamiliar  environment. As you mentioned, these are animals   coming from captivity. They're used to getting  their food and water on a regular schedule and  

not having to find it for themselves. So we want to  see how they perform in this unfamiliar landscape   after their release. >>Shellie: That makes a lot of sense, I  know personally, you know, if I go somewhere new   and there's lots of things to see and explore,  I always like to know where the closest coffee   shop is, but I imagine some of our viewers  might want to know where the closest zoo is   or the closest toy store is. That's really neat. Um,  what are some other reasons you might track oryx?   >>Dr. Katherine: So we track oryx that are newly released into  the reserve, and we also track ones that were   born in Chad to learn whether animals with  different experiences make different movement   decisions or different habitat selection, or  use space differently. >>Shellie: That's very cool, and   have you learned something since tracking them  of how they use their space? >>Dr. Katherine: Well, we've learned a  

lot of things, but a really exciting detail is in  just the last couple years we've seen an emerging   seasonal movement where reintroduced oryx are  moving about 20 to 40 kilometers to the Northwest   during the wet season when there's more food, more  grass available for them to eat. >>Shellie: So you said 20 to   40 kilometers, that's about 13 to 25 miles. That's  a pretty long distance! Seasonal movement sounds a   lot like migration, is this a migration? >>Dr. Katherine: It's like a  migration in that oryx are responding to changes   in seasonal conditions, but the distance they  travel is pretty small only tens of kilometers; so   far. >>Shellie: That's really, really neat. Um, earlier this week  we learned about some larger animal migrations   like the arctic tern that's traveling all the way  from the arctic all the way down to Antarctica. Um,   so, did the oryx not always do this mini migration  if we're just seeing it in the last couple years?   >>Dr. Katherine: So part of what makes studying  scimitar-horned oryx so exciting  

is that we actually know very little about  them. They went extinct in the wild before   modern tracking technologies like GPS collars  were available. So, there's some historical   evidence that oryx may have performed seasonal  migrations, but these data are pretty limited.  So it's just incredibly interesting to see  this emerging seasonal movement and we'll   see if it will develop into a regular, longer  distance movement as these reintroduced animals   gain more experience in the wild. >>Shellie: That's so cool  that our technological advances are now providing   us with such valuable data to back up, back up  what was historically probably anecdotal or just   word of mouth of 'We think we're seeing this'. So I  see here some pictures of these trackers, it looks  

like collar trackers, we learned about acoustic  trackers for river herring, some GPS backpacks on   pelicans, can you tell us a little bit more about  the type of tracker you're using on the oryx?  >>Dr. Katherine: Sure! Oryx are actually pretty straightforward  to track. Their body shape is a lot like deer, so   we can put a GPS collar around their neck and  it won't slide around or get damaged too much.   It's much easier than tracking some other species  like giraffe where you can't really put a collar   on their really long, sensitive neck, or some bear  species that have short thick necks and small   ears so that they can push their collars off or  they can slide off. So, this is an example of a  

GPS collar that we use on addax and oryx in Chad.  It weighs less than one kilo-, one kilogram, which is   less than one percent of the typical body  weight of an adult oryx. And, the environment   in Chad is very open. There's not steep hills,  there's not dense canopy cover, so there's very   little interference with the collar's GPS signal  or VHF signal. >>Shellie: That's really neat, and then you can   track them from anywhere in the world or do you  have to be on the ground in Chad to track them?  >>Dr. Katherine: We can track them from anywhere in the world.  We have a field team who can do track radio   signals and VHF tracking and then we  can see their positions from anywhere!   >>Shellie: And can you show us their positions  right now? >>Dr. Katherine: Absolutely! >>Shellie: That's so cool.

>>Dr. Katherine: So this is the entire reserve in Chad where we're  reintroducing animals, it's very large about the   size of Maine and if I zoom in I can show you  where one of my favorite animals blue 23 red 2   has been spending most of her time in the last  three weeks. And every single one of these dots   represents real-time tracking information from one  oryx or addax that we've released into the wild.   >> Shellie: That's so neat, so you can see the greater picture  of where they're spending their time or even just   track one individual animal. And I love that you  have a favorite animal, what makes that animal  

your favorite? >>Dr. Katherine: So this was the very first  animal that we captured in the field after   her initial release. So she's been living in the  wild for almost six years, and we get to compare   her information from right after she was  released to now that she's got so much   more experience and see what she might  be doing differently on the landscape.   >>Shellie: That's really, really neat. Um, we had a question  specifically about the babies that are born.    How do you tag, or capture the, the, um, juvenile oryx  and put the, um, trackers and the collars on them?  >>Dr. Katherine: So it's unfortunately not safe to put a collar  on a young animal simply because their necks are   growing so fast, that they just, it wouldn't be safe  for the animal. Um, we can, we've been developing  

some really interesting alternative tracking  devices that we might be able to put on younger   animals like on their horns. >>Shellie: Got it, and do all  of the trackers run on batteries? >>Dr. Katherine: That's right, so   our collars that are about one kilogram all  the batteries are in this one little part of   the collar. And so we can't put that many batteries  in it because then it would be too heavy for the   animal to carry. So all of our collars can last for  up to three years, and that's our limited slice of  

their adult lifetime that we can see using collars.  >>Shellie: Got it, so if you wanted to track for longer you   would need a different type of tracker? >>Dr. Katherine: That's  right, so those horn mounted tags I mentioned   are also solar powered and we're trying  to develop them to track the species for   more reproductive cycles to get a better sense  of how many calves they can produce and just get   a longer timeline of how they're behaving after  reintroduction. >>Shellie: That's so neat. So just to reiterate,   you are trying this new, innovative type of tracker  that is a solar powered tracker that you mount on   their horns instead. See if you can spot it, send  me a thumbs up if you could spot that tracker  

on this picture of these scimitar-horned oryx.  Those blended in so, so well. That is so amazing.   Um, Dr. Katherine, this has been such an incredible  story to hear about how you are tracking these   critically endangered, extinct in the wild animals  and you're trying these, um, new innovative trackers.   Are you shipping these trackers to Chad  and trying them on the animals there?   >>Dr. Katherine: Well one of the benefits of working in a  place like the Smithsonian's National Zoo and   Conservation Biology Institute is that we can work  with captive animals kind of as a test collection   to try out these new technologies.So we worked  with the ungulate keeper team at SCBI to test some   attachment mechanisms and some functioning tags  on captive oryx to see how well they worked, if   they were damaged by oryx using their horns. And  we collected a lot of behavioral observations, and  

fecal samples, to make sure that animals didn't get  too stressed out when we attached these trackers.   >>Shellie: That's really, really neat. Now switching gears  a little bit, how did you get into this career   saving species like the oryx and the addax? >>Dr. Katherine: Well, I  always liked animals, and I actually grew up in  

Northern Virginia so I went to Smithsonian's  National Zoo quite a lot; but I wasn't really   in to science or math until kind of late in  college when I figured out that I liked ecology.   And then I did a semester abroad in Australia  themed around ecology, and I did a senior project   on buffer zones around protected areas and that  really set me on my path for working in ecology   and with wildlife for my career. >>Shellie: It's nice to  hear that even though you didn't originally   have an interest in science and math, that you  still found a passion in the science field, um, and   a way into this field a little bit later in life.  That's really great! And do you, did you, have many   women mentors, um, getting into this field? Are  there a lot of women doing this kind of work?   >>Dr. Katherine: Well there are definitely women in the field, but  most animal movement researchers are men. And I was  

lucky enough to have a great woman mentor, actually,  when I was getting my master's degree; when I took   several pretty tough spatial analysis and remote  sensing courses at the same time; which I would not   recommend. That was a really tough semester, but the  same woman professor was teaching both courses and   she was really supportive and eventually helped  me apply to PhD programs. And then it turned out   she moved to the institution where I was accepted  for my PhD, and ended up being the remote sensing   specialist on my PhD committee. So, two classes  in one semester turned into about seven years  

of mentorship and collaboration. >>Shellie: That's so nice  that it worked out that she was able to sort of   follow your same path along and you have her the  whole way. And, I don't want to ruin the surprise   of our next guest but there is another woman  who works on the same project with you, correct?   >>Dr. Katherine: That's right, and it's someone who has taught  me an incredible amount about working in   conservation biology, especially how to work  successfully with big international teams on   large scale conservation projects like this. It's  Dr. Melissa Songer. >>Shellie: Awesome. Thank you so much Dr.   Katherine for sharing this amazing work, and  project that you're doing to save a critically   endangered species. A species that's extinct in  the wild. Um, and we will see you in a bit for our q&a! And I am so pleased to welcome our next guest  Dr. Melissa Songer, welcome, would you like to  

introduce yourself? >>Dr. Melissa Songer: Sure thing! I'm Dr. Melissa  Songer, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I'm a   conservation biologist at Smithsonian's National  Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. >>Shellie: That's so neat.  We just got a sneak peek into one of the  projects that you work on, but can you briefly   tell us what a conservation biologist is? >>Dr. Melissa: Sure.  A conservation biologist can be many things,   but a key part of the job is that we're not just  answering important questions about nature, but   we're using what we learned to solve conservation  challenges such as saving endangered species. And the   tagline I like to use, is that I'm developing  and implementing science-based strategies   for restoring endangered species and their  ecosystems. >>Shellie: I love that, science-based strategies.   And again, we just heard this reintroduction  story of the oryx almost going extinct.  

Besides the scimitar-horned oryx, what are some  other species that you are studying to save?   >>Dr. Melissa: In addition to the oryx, I work on giant  pandas, Pzrewalski's horses, Asian elephants,   and swift foxes. >>Shellie: Now, I know how excited folks get  about our giant pandas. We are celebrating the   50th anniversary of their arrival here at the  National Zoo, so if you want to hear more about   Dr. Mel's work with giant pandas, specifically,  you'll see a link put in the chat for a previous   Unzoousual Careers panda panel that Dr. Mel joined us  for. Um, so take a look at that after this program.   Dr. Mel can you repeat the second species  that you mentioned, Przewalski's horses?   >>Dr. Melissa: Sure, the Przewalski's horse is the last species  of wild horse that's still living in the world. 

And it's pronounced a little differently than  how it's spelled, because it's a Polish name.   It's taken from the explorer that first  reported the species to European scientists.   >>Shellie: Got it. And so, give me a thumbs up with those  emojis if you've ever heard of a Przewalski's   horse before. And let's all practice saying this  together. PRZEWALSKI. That's great, so we do like   to call them p.horses for short so you might  hear us refer to them as that. So, Dr.Mel, can you   tell us a little bit about why you are studying  p.horses? >>Dr. Melissa: Well, they once ranged over desert and  

step habitats across central Asia and Europe, but  a combination of changing landscapes, increasing   hunting, and, especially, livestock pressures drove  them to extinction in the wild by the end of the   1960s. >>Shellie: Oh wow, so similar to the oryx - extinct  in the wild. There were none left in the wild,   but it does sound similar there were maybe still  some in zoos? >>Dr. Melissa: Yes. There were still some in zoos and   reintroduction efforts to return them to the wild  began in the 1990s in Mongolia and then later in   China and other parts of their former range. So  the goal was to help them get back to the wild.  >>Shellie: Wow, that's so amazing. Um, so again, once again  all these organizations like the National Zoo   and Conservation Biology Institute took what  p.horses we had, began breeding them, for eventual  

release into their native lands. >>Dr. Melissa: That's right. >>Shellie: And  what is your research focusing on specifically?  >>Dr. Melissa: Well, my research focuses on what they do after  they're released to the wild. And, these are,   again, like the oryx, are horses that have been  fed and lived inside fences their whole life,   suddenly they have to find food, water, figure out  how to survive - a range of challenges they've never had.  So there's a lot they need to learn, and then  there's a lot we want to learn about them since   they disappeared before scientists really had  a chance to study them. >>Shellie: Yeah, of course, again the   presence of technology gives us so much. A bigger  advantage into studying these animals. And how   exactly are you studying all these questions  that you raised? >>Dr. Melissa: Well, again, one of the great  

things about being with the National Zoo and SCBI  is that we can learn a lot about the p.horses   basically in our own backyard. About their hormones,  their stress, health, nutrition, even social behavior.   >>Shellie: Wow that's really, really neat that you can just  use the animals that we have in our collection   here to influence the changes that we make for the  species in the wild. >>Dr. Melissa: Yeah, it's especially helpful   if we are going to track them with collars, or some  other means, that we can test it out at, uh, SCBI  or at the zoo, um, make sure that it's not going  to affect them, and once we know it's not going   to hurt them we can put the collars on the horses  either before or after they're released to the wild.   >>Shellie: Very cool. So just like Dr. Katherine was sort  of testing the new solar tracking on the zoo's   collection of oryx, you are testing the collars on  the zoo's collection of p.horses. But p.horses  

obviously don't have horns for those solar power  ones it looks like they're just using the collars?   >>Dr. Melissa: Yes, well, we start, we've mostly used the collars  and, uh, I can show you, it's pretty similar to   the oryx collar. Uh, and so mainly that's how we've  done it. >>Shellie: Very cool. And then, let's see, so once you   have the trackers on let's see sort of what this  looks like; the data that you're getting. I think   this is a video that we can see exactly where  they pinpoint. So is that just two, two individuals?   >>Dr. Melissa: That's two individuals that are collared, but  they're moving in groups so we're actually  

tracking between seven and maybe ten horses with  the one collar. They stick very close together.   So we can learn a lot about what they're, what they  need, what, where they're going, what kind of habitat   they're selecting, uh, their home range size. We could  start to learn about their social relationships,   group dynamics, all these sorts of things. And you  can see in the background there how there's the, um,   the map that's showing different amounts of green, and  that's satellite imagery that tells us what the   what, what's present on the ground. So once we  put that together with where the horses are, uh,   we learn a lot about what they're, what they're  selecting and what they need to survive. >>Shellie: That's so  

neat. So I noticed you just listed off a bunch of  questions, uhm, and it's such a great way for everyone   watching to get involved in science themselves.  Be curious! What do you have questions about?   So, Dr. Katherine told us about that she's trying  to solve this issue with the batteries by using   solar power. Are you running into any issues  that you're trying to solve with tracking the p.horses?   >>Dr. Melissa: We did. When we first put collars on, we put  collars on females and males, and we really wanted  

to know what they were doing because they do very  different things; I mentioned the family groups.   Uh, the females are in, and the foals are in a  family group with one stallion. While the young   males are in bachelor groups. And so they run  around together and move very differently. They   also get into a lot of fights. They want to figure  out who's the toughest, who gets to be the boss.   And as they fight for position, they're  actually able to bite and pull at the collars   and they destroyed the collars, I've got it,  one here. You can see what the males do to a collar.   >>Shellie: Oh no! *laugh* >>Dr. Melissa: So *laugh* we stopped putting those on, uh, the males. And, but we still wanted to know what was going on so  

we decided to try to figure out another way to  place them. >>Shellie: That's so cool, and I'm going to launch   another poll here. I would love to hear from our  audience, where do you think Dr. Mel and scientists   were trying to attach, uh, the trackers to the male  Przewalski's horses? Do you think maybe on their back?   On their mane? On their tail? Or on their hoof? And  I'll give you a couple seconds. That is so cool, and   we talked a little bit throughout the week about  the cost of some of those trackers. So I imagine we   really want to try to avoid damaging them as much  as possible. So let's see, where folks think that we  

are starting to track Przewalski's horses. And I'm  going to close this poll in three, two, one. Let's see...   Oh very interesting! Alright Dr. Mel, most  people guessed hoof. >>Dr. Melissa: Interesting. Good guesses!  >> Shellie: Where are you applying these trackers? >>Dr. Melissa: We decided to try to braid them into their tails. So I can show you a little bit what   that looks like. This is a model, uh, and these again  were, uh, with with solar panels so they're much lighter.  And so, we have done a lot of different  demos where we, we tried to do some with, um, yarn   and tried to figure out how to really braid that in.  You know horses aren't used to getting their tails   braided, so we needed to be very efficient about  it and, um, this, we actually, keepers gave us a part   of a horsetail which is very different material. So  we had to you know practice and figure out how to  

really get it to stay in, and then test it to see  how the horses reacted. >>Shellie: And I actually think our   next picture we have a picture of these horses,  again, at our facility in Front Royal, Virginia   the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. So  this is the data of those horses trying this out.   >>Dr. Melissa: Right, and we found that it actually, they mostly  left the trackers alone. We didn't know if the   other horses would would do try to get them off  or anything like that; so that, it does seem to be   a good solution for something that they can't  remove. Uh, we are, they are having trouble keeping   them on as long as we can have collars so that's  something we're still working on. >>Shellie: And we actually  

just got a comment, someone said that their horse  sometimes loses hair so I wonder if that's a   similar issue we're running into. >>Dr. Melissa: That's right, yes,  that's one of the one of the challenges is, what,  when horses are systematically losing hair and so  they don't, they're just, they're not as strong as collars. >>Shellie: Very neat. Um, and can you just quickly tell  us how you got into this career? Did you have very   many women, role models in conservation biology  in your, um, journey to this job? >>Dr. Melissa: Well, I'm just a   bit older than Katherine *laugh* and early on I really  didn't have a lot of exposure to women in science.   Uh, they just weren't very visible to me, but early  in my career when I started with the Smithsonian,   I had a chance to meet some women who were true  pioneers in the field. For example, Dr. JoGayle  

Howard, uh, she innovated new reproductive technology  techniques for highly endangered species.   Dr. Devra Kleiman, she led a major effort to use  captive animals to help endangered wild animals   with the golden lion tamarind in Brazil. So, they  both showed me that women could be leaders in   conservation, and make a difference in saving  species. So, now, there are so many more women   in their field. It's really fantastic to see  that, how much it's changed, and I'm fortunate   to have worked with many brilliant women within the  Smithsonian and beyond. >>Shellie: I love to hear that! Um, as  

a person who has worked with many species named  after Dr.JoGayle Howard, it's incredible that they   have so many role models here in the Smithsonian;  and that now you, yourself, Dr. Mel can serve as a   role model for many other up-and-coming, uh, women  and girls in STEM. Well, we have a special guest who   is very ready to meet everybody. Um, once again,  we've learned sort of throughout this program   how Dr.Mel and Dr.Katherine use the animals  here at the zoo to help learn, and apply what are  

the things that we learn, our knowledge, to tracking  animals in the wild. So Dr. Mel, I'm going to invite   you back in a few minutes for our q&a while we  meet our next guest. If you have any guesses who   our special guest will be, put it in the chat. And  I am so thrilled to welcome, um, our special ZooCam.

>>Debbie: Hi! My name is Debbie, I'm an elephant keeper here at  the National Zoo, I have 40, 40, no, I don't have 40 *laugh*   I have 21 years experience taking care of  elephants. This is Becca, and our elephant Swarna!   Swarna is a 47 year old Asian female elephant, she's about  7 feet tall, and almost seven thousand pounds.   One of the ways that elephants at the zoo  help scientists learn about elephants in   the wild, is testing equipment used to track  them. Today we'd like to show you how we put  

a tracking unit, in a bracelet, on an elephant. So we've taught Swarna how to lift her foot... *laughs* Stage fright. *laughs* She's going to lift her foot, she's  going to extend it, and hold it in place,   while Becky puts the bracelet around,  her wrist, and attaches the clip! *click* Now this doesn't bother Swarna at all,  in fact, she can just walk off for the   rest of the day doing all the things  she likes to do. Doesn't get in the way. And when we gather the tracking data at a  later date, we can see where Swarna has been   throughout the day and how long she stayed  in each place! We can also see where she has   laid down, and how long she stayed sleeping in that  same spot. In this way, if everything goes well,   we can see that this equipment works  well for tracking elephants in the wild,   and in that way that's how elephants at zoos  help scientists learn about elephants!   >>Shellie: That is so neat Debbie thank you so  much for joining! >>Debbie: You're welcome! >>Shellie: Can you repeat for us, um,   how old is Swarna? >>Debbie: Swarna is 47 years old! >>Shellie: 47 years  old, and how long has she lived at the National Zoo? >>Debbie: She's lived here for eight years now. >>Shellie: Wow,  very cool. >>Debbie: She and her, um, her pseudo-sister,  

her companion Kamala, sorry, Kamala came  here along with Kamala's daughter Maharani.   And they've integrated into our herd, and then  their longtime companion, Spike, who also used to   live with them at a previous facility in Calgary  Canada moved here as well. They're all reunited.   Terrific elephants, good family group. >>Shellie: Amazing! And  I'm hearing in the background a little bit of a   clicking, can you tell us what that clicking  is? >>Debbie: Yes! So one of the ways that we let an   elephant know that they're doing the correct  behavior is, by using a bridge. A bridge is, um,   a sound generally between the command that we  give ,and them performing the behavior we ask. *click*  

In this case it's a clicker, and it sounds like  this. It could be a whistle, it could be the word   'good' and we ask the elephant to do the behavior;  when they've completed the behavior you hear the   click, and they understand that they're  going to get a food reward in her case.   >>Shellie: Very cool, and this allows the elephants to sort  of have a choice in participating and you use   the same sort of positive reinforcement, we call it,  when it comes to their veterinary procedures too!   So that almost like when, um, kids or adults  even go to the doctors we might get a lollipop   as a reward so if she does the behavior you  ask, she'll get a little treat reward, right?   >>Debbie: Definitely, yes! And, um, depending on how difficult  the behavior is or the elephant's interest, they   may get something they could get something as tiny  as a grape or they might need some encouragement   as large as a watermelon. >>Shellie: As large as a watermelon,  those are quite different sizes, that's amazing!   >>Debbie: They're very individual in their likes and tastes.  >>Shellie: That's so amazing, so I noticed obviously here   you're using a bracelet, but in the wild we  know that they're using collars. What is the  

difference between those? >>Debbie: We actually have a  radio tracking collar so that we can show you.   It's well worn, probably not unlike what a radio  tracking collar would look like after it had been   removed from an elephant living in range country  for a long time. Becky's gonna bring that up for us.   Oh, it's very heavy, to us, not for elephants! This is  the component, ugh, like I said but, um, we, it's connected   by these little screws and this metal plate. So  we would ask one of our elephants to come close,   we practiced for a very long time throwing it up  over their neck, and pulling it down attaching it.   And then we tested that equipment as well to  make sure it was comfortable for the elephants,   didn't cause any abrasions, or stopped them  from feeding or lying down to sleep. Um, and   then we actually tested on, on, the one specific  elephant we worked with we checked her for those   things, um, every single day; kept note of it, and  she was fine, there were no behavioral changes   and, um, and this was the actual collar! And they are  actually using these collars for tracking   elements in the wild. Oh my goodness, thank you. >>Shellie: That's  so amazing, and I did launch a poll Debbie and  

people were guessing on how much an elephant tracking  collar weighs: 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 25 pounds   or 50 pounds. Do you know off the top of your head  how heavy that was? >>Debbie: Hmmm, I, maybe 25 or 30 pounds?   It's pretty, it, it seems pretty heavy to us,  the higher you hold it, the heavier it is.   But for them it's really no big deal at all. I  don't, don't even think they really notice it.  

>>Shellie: That's really amazing. Debbie thank you SO much  for joining and for giving us this special view   and, once again, how our zoo animals like our Asian  elephants like Swarna here help to trial things,   advance our technology, advance our knowledge to  help their wild cousins. Debbie, again, thank you so   so much for joining we had just the best time and  we have reached our 45 minutes folks so I'm gonna   launch our last polls in case some folks need to  leave. And, um, I am going to invite Dr. Katherine 

and Dr. Mel back on so keep those questions coming  in the q&a, and we are going to dive right in. And   this closing poll is: how did you feel about  today's program? Did you love it? Like it? It   was okay, or not for you. And how did this program  leave you feeling? Connected to the Smithsonian,   motivated to save species, curious about careers  with animals. and inspired by women in STEM?  

Once again, thank you so much for joining Dr. Katherine and Dr Mel! We have gotten so many questions!   And let's start with, Nicole asks, this is for Dr.  Katherine, um are oryx predators in the wild or   what are their predators in the wild? >>Dr.Katherine: So, while oryx  may occasionally fight each other, especially the   adult males do for mating opportunities, they are  subject to predation by a number of other species.   In the reserve where we're introducing oryx  in Chad, the only predator of oryx that's left   in the wild is the jackal. And so they're fairly  small, dog-like animals that would mostly predate  

very young calves less than 30 days old. >>Shellie: Oh  wow, and, um, how many babies have been born?   The Langley School asks. >>Dr.Katherine: So more than 330 scimitar- horned oryx calves have been detected in the wild   in Chad since the first animals were released in  2016. So it's a really rapidly growing population,   and it's really incredible to see how frequently,  and how many, tiny little baby oryx are being found   in the wild. >>Shellie: I think, you know, animals that have  been reintroduced and successfully breed and have  

babies is the ultimate sort of measure of success,  right? >>Dr.Katherine: Absolutely, our primary goal and really the   goal of any reintroduction program, is to establish  a self-sustaining population that can keep itself   stable or growing through reproduction and  low mortality. >>Shellie: That's so neat, um, Dr.Mel, the   next one is for you. So we saw Swarna show  us her hoof, her paw, to, um, put the bracelet   on but obviously our wild elephants aren't  going to be trained for this behavior, can   you walk us through a little bit of how you  would put a collar on a wild Asian elephant?   >>Dr.Melissa: Sure, it is quite an operation. And the work where  we've done the, most of the collaring has been done in   Myanmar. And there they have many, many, what we  call 'working elephants'. They actually work in  

timber operations, they do the heavy lifting, so  they're very trained. Here you could see one.   And, we work with a team of, of elephants. Of four or  five elephants, and they are actually trained   to help capture other elephants. In, they're, they're  actually trained for capturing them for more work   but we work with them in order to capture and  collar them. So, uh, dart, we have trackers, that, that   find them and we dart them with very strong, and  basically it's, it's, um, they go to sleep! We get the   collar on, and then we reverse the drug, and move  away very quickly. And, uh, yeah it's, it's really   an exciting operation. And, um, the elephants really  get all the credit, they're very highly trained  

um, in terms of being able to deal with a, with a  wild elephant and not run away. >>Shellie: That's so amazing.   So we did see some maps earlier from the oryx  and the Przewalski's horses, but this is great of an   elephant wearing one of these collars and exactly  pinpointing where they're traveling to. Um this is   great, a great question probably for both of  you, I'll leave it up to you who wants to answer   Lindsey asked about removing the trackers once the  batteries run out, how do you do that? >>Dr.Katherine: Well I could   answer for all of the collars that we put out on  scimitar-horned oryx and addax. And for many of the   collars that are made these days, they actually  have an automatic drop-off device. So there's a   section in the collar that will actually separate  on a programmed date, or after a certain amount of   time so the collar will simply fall off the animal  and you can go pick it up in the field. And you  

can also insert, what are called 'weak links' so a  more fragile material than the typical leather   or nylon of the collar belt or the tag bands that  will gradually wear away over time and fall off   the animal after a couple years or so. >>Shellie: That's  so neat. Is it the same for the elephants too?   >>Dr.Melissa: It is, now. It, originally there were not really  those kind of remote drop-offs but now we've   built in things that will rest and make sure that  they're not wearing that for their whole life.   >>Shellie: Again, another cool advancement in technology that  they'll just automatically, and we can salvage   those pieces and reuse them. That's fantastic.  Um, Alex and Andrew had a question about which, um,  

organization breeds the most Przewalski's horses?  >>Dr. Mel: Which breeds the most? Well actually the wild horse   breeding center in Xinjiang, China is the largest.  They have, approximately, 120-130 horses, uh, and this is   one of the organizations that we work with that's  releasing horses in the Northwestern part of China.  

>>Shellie: That's so neat. Let's see...and, again, questions  for both of you. I believe, um, Dr.Katherine   briefly mentioned this, but did the trackers,  do these collars bother the animals at all?   >>Dr.Katherine: No, and one of the, kind of, ground rules for  tracking animals and that's been mentioned   for all the species we've talked about today, and  probably on the other days that you guys have   held similar programs, you can't make it too heavy.  So that's the critical first piece is making sure  

that the weight is sustainable for the animal to  carry over time. And then, so that ties into solar   powered, battery-powered, all these questions. Just  to make it as light as possible, and then working   with the captive collections to check their  behavior. Are they stressed? Look at their fecal   samples to see if we can find stress hormones or  high levels of stress hormones, so all of these   hardware parts and research parts really get  put together to make sure we're not negatively   impacting animal welfare. >>Shellie: That's so amazing, um,  great, and another question from Alex and Andrew:   Um, Mel, what have been your favorite moments from  working in the field? >>Dr.Mel: Well, definitely seeing a   species be being released, uh, and visiting, seeing,  and being able to see them in the wild. And think  

this, this animal didn't used to be free, and that's  that's a highlight regardless of the species to, to   see that, uh, it really. I don't know, that's probably  the most exciting thing. >>Shellie: That's so amazing. And   so both of you have talked about studying the  ecology, the environment, the habitats. Have you   noticed any changes in the ecosystems that you are  reintroducing the once extinct animals back in to? >>Dr.Katherine: Well, one of the things that helped settle  where oryx and addax should be reintroduced  

in Chad was a long-term analysis of vegetation  and climate trends. So actually the reserve   where oryx and addax are being released  right now, underwent a 'greening trend'   through the 1990s which may be a surprise to  everyone who expects generally higher temperatures   and drier environments under climate change, but in  some areas their rainfall is changing, and in Chad   it's changing so there's more precipitation in  fewer rainfall events, but overall the system is, uh,   has gradually greened over the last couple decades.  Short-term changes, we're seeing lots and lots of   livestock. So in the reserve in Chad people will,  families will bring their camels, their goats, their   sheep, their cows into the reserve during the rainy  season to take advantage of all the green grass.  

And over time there's just been  more, and more, and more livestock   coming in. So there's a lot more cows around  the oryx than there used to be in Chad.   >>Shellie: Alright, are you seeing any changes in the  ecology, where the Przewalski's horses or Asian   elephants live Dr.Mel? >>Dr.Melissa: Well, we have seen  some similar things where we see increased  human impact in that way. So in Mongolia, in Khustain Nuruu, where we work, we've been seeing more, more livestock coming in and that  is a concern because there can be,   you know, not enough forage for everybody  and some of the overlap we worry about   uh, in, in China one of the, one of the challenges  we've seen from human activities was from   development of drilling some oil. And it's  a very large reserve, it's 14,000 square   kilometers, but there were areas where they were  starting to, to build up areas that were for   mining. And so it was, there was several years where  we were really pushing, you know we, we want to try  

to limit this we really don't, you know, want this  to get close to the horses. And it was actually   considered that that, that they did, um, limit the  expansion uh, because of the of the horse project   so that was that was really great to see. >>Shellie: That's  amazing, and Olivia had a question, potentially for   both of you, what are some of the subjects that  you studied in order to do sort of ecology and   conservation work now? We can start with you Dr.  Katherine. >>Dr.Katherine: Sure! So this might not be the answer   that anyone wants to hear, but statistics is really  important. That's how we tell a change over time in   anything, environmental conditions, animal behavior,  animal habitat selection. You have to be able to   use statistical tools to tell those things apart.  And a lot of my work, I actually analyze data from  

satellites, so remote sensing, and I analyze, you  know, points in space where all of these collars   are reporting their location. So lots of spatial  data, lots of satellite data, and lots of statistics.   >>Shellie: That's amazing, what about you Dr.Mel? >>Dr.Melissa: Yeah, I  would agree. I think, uh, spatial analysis and   mapping, uh, really learning to use GIS can be  helpful for so many different fields. And then   beyond that, the fun stuff for me was biology and  botany, and mammology, and where you really get to   learn about the about the species. So, um, you can  never have too much of that. >>Shellie: That is so amazing, and I   know that we are still getting so many questions,  unfortunately we are running out of time. I do   want to say thank you SO much to Dr. Katherine and  Dr. Mel, and a special shout out to Debbie and  

Swarna joining us from the elephant house. Do you  have any final words of wisdom for our viewers?   Um, potentially any things that, you know,  your favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day?   >>Dr.Katherine: Well I have two little kids, and we'll be going  to the zoo! *laughs* >>Shellie: That's a great one! >>Dr.Katherine: I encourage anyone who   has questions about the species you might see at  the zoo to look at websites and look at, there are   so many amazing video content that the zoo has  posted online. There's so much to learn about all  

these different species both in captivity, and then  how to conserve them in the wild. >>Shellie: Thank you, what   about you Dr.Mel? >>Dr.Melissa: I think a great thing to do, to  celebrate, is to get outside, and it's a beautiful   day, so get out and hike! That's something that I  always did growing up is grab those chances and,   um, you know and I think too, think about what, what  actions we're taking. I think anyone, we can make   decisions in our life every day in what we're,  what we're eating, what we're buying, what we're   consuming, that can make a difference for animals  and habitat so, you know, you don't have to be a   scientist or a conservation biologist. And I think  Earth Day is a great day to remember, you know, we   can make a difference. >>Shellie: And I love that, just last  question any advice, again this is Women on the   Move, any advice for young girls, women interested  in science, in STEM, in conservation or ecology? >>Dr.Melissa: Um, well I, I think about this like when I was a  young girl, what would I tell myself? And something  

that, it's, that always was a problem for me was  speaking up. Uh whether it was being the only woman   in the room, or just being a shy person, I struggled  with speaking to groups, uh, but I think if you stay   quiet you're really missing opportunities for  connection and contributing to ideas. So I, I   guess that's a message that I would, I would say to  to women, um, you know, make yourself heard! And, um,    I think, um, you know, the more you do  that, the more, the easier it gets so...   >>Shellie: I love that! Thank you so much. Well thank you  both for joining us on this Earth Day we had   SUCH an amazing time this week highlighting Women  on the Move and learning about scientists tracking   species across land, air, and sea habitats. Thank  you so much Dr. Mel and Dr. Katherine for joining us.   Well we have been talking about saving species  around the world this week. There are some things  

that we can all do to help save species, as we  mentioned. One, to help our aquatic species that   we learned on Monday, like our herring and  our whales, we can eat more sustainable fish.   To help our shore and seabirds that we learned  about on Wednesday, avoid single-use plastics.   And, to help our animals here at the zoo like our  Przewalski's horses, our oryx, and our Asian elephants,   come visit or support the zoo by watching these  webinars, visiting, telling your friends and family   all about what you learned. You can help support  the zoo, and some of these amazing species. After   learning about how scientists track river herring,  whales, birds, oryx, Przewalski's horses, and elephants   we want you all to now put on your researcher  hat, and think of an animal that YOU would want to   track and design a tracking device for that animal!  You'll be able to find this tracking activity on   our website later next week, and you can submit  your drawings through our website and we'll   post them on our learning lab as well. Recordings  of all three programs will be made accessible, and  

posted on our website along with more resources  next week. And if you're posting to our social   media, to your social media, be sure to tag us and  hashtag BecauseOfHerStory. We would additionally   love your feedback on today's program, you'll see a  survey pop up when we close this webinar. Educators,  

if you wouldn't mind taking a few minutes to fill  that out. On behalf of the Smithsonian's American   Women's History Initiative, the Smithsonian's  National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute,  

2022-05-02 18:56

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