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How do I use animal-borne imaging technology in marine and terrestrial environments?

Catch up on our Tech Tutors episode with National Geographic's Kyler Abernathy, who answered the question, "How do I use animal-borne imaging technology in marine and terrestrial environments?" Watch the full session below and on our Youtube channel to learn about the NatGeo Crittercam, and how you can apply the lessons from this innovative tech to your own work in different environments! 

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About the Series

Welcome to the third season of WILDLABS Tech Tutors, the series that answers the "how do I do that?" questions of conservation tech! Brought to you with the support of Microsoft AI for Earth, Tech Tutors is made for conservation tech beginners of all knowledge levels (and yes, even experts can still be beginners when it comes to tackling a new aspect of conservation tech or starting a new project.). Our Tech Tutors will give you the bite-sized, easy-to-understand building blocks you'll need to try new conservation technology, enhance your research, DIY a project for the first time, or simply explore the possibilities.

Taking place every Thursday, each Tech Tutor will present a 30 minute tutorial guiding you through an aspect of conservation tech, followed by a 30 minute live Q&A session with the audience.

What do you gain as a Tech Tutors participant? You'll leave each episode with the confidence to build on the skills discussed in these tutorials, and you'll have an ongoing opportunity to learn and collaborate with other members of the WILDLABS community! The connections made through the past seasons of Tech Tutors have led to real projects and results, and our third season is set to introduce you to even more new ideas and community members who are ready to start something new! 

Can't make it to an episode this season? Don't worry! You can find every tutorial after it airs on our Youtube channel, and you can collaborate and ask questions in each episode's thread on the WILDLABS Tech Tutors forum.

Want to catch up on Tech Tutors Seasons One and Two? Find links to our episodes' recordings and resources here and here.

Meet Your Tech Tutor: Kyler Abernathy, National Geographic 

Kyler Abernathy is Director of Operations for the National Geographic Exploration Technology Lab. He works with the team’s engineers and NGS Explorers to develop and deploy novel devices to support the research, exploration, education and storytelling goals of those Explorers.

Kyler began applying technology toward conservation and research goals during his Master’s research at the University of Minnesota, employing satellite-linked time-depth recorders to identify critical habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals. During that work, he was first introduced to the National Geographic Crittercam. Initially quite skeptical of the research potential of this new device, the images from those first monk seal deployments profoundly altered his understanding of monk seal behavior and made him a strong believer in the potential of Crittercam. A few years later, he was hired at NGS to work on Crittercam projects. Since then, Kyler has participated in more than 100 Crittercam and other technology-focused field projects, in locations ranging from tropical islands to Antarctica.

We asked Kyler...

What will I learn in this episode? 

Animal-borne imaging, what it can help us learn about animal behavior and ecology, the strengths and limitations of this technique.

How can I learn more about this subject? 

Check out available publications on Crittercam and other animal-borne imaging research. This can provide a deeper sense of the diversity of applications and results that have been achieved.  Also, go to www.nationalgeographic.com and search on Crittercam. That will pull up dozens of short videos that provide a real-life view of how some of this work is done and the resulting POV video.

If I want to take the next step, where should I start? 

The easiest option might be to look at commercially available devices, such as from LotekCATS, or Little Leonardo.  The ExTech team is constrained in only being able to work with NGS Explorers, but you could submit a grant proposal to NGS!

What advice do you have for a complete beginner in this subject? 

While this type of tool can be very useful in revealing new information and the prospect of obtaining this very intimate view of an animal's life is very enticing, it is challenging work (as any animal instrumentation is). Before pursuing an animal-borne imaging project, give thorough consideration to the research questions you're asking and whether this is the best approach to tackle these questions. Talking through the ideas with someone who has used this type of tool before could be very helpful in understanding the potential in your particular project.

Ready to learn with Kyler? Watch Kyler's episode on Youtube here.

Learn more about our upcoming Tech Tutorials

Visit the series page on WILDLABS to find the full list of WILDLABS Tech Tutors.


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