Students develop GPS tracking devices

Wildlife biology students use GPS tracking devices they developed to locate box turtles. (Photo courtesy of Murray State University)

Addison Watson

Staff Writer

awatson25@murraystate.edu

Murray State students developed GPS tracking devices to locate and track the movement of box turtles as part of their Wildlife Techniques class.

Andrea Darracq, assistant professor of wildlife biology, led a student-centered field study where students were able to combine technical skills with field experience by tracking box turtles. The project was made possible by the University’s Bring Learning to Life Grant.

The students located the box turtles they intended to study on and off Murray State property and began tracking the turtles using a transmitter. The GPS tracking devices allowed students to record the box turtles’ movements while transmitters and a receiver let students determine the turtles’ precise locations.

“Our students are gaining great experience from manually triangulating each turtle’s location and comparing it to the more precise readings their GPS units are reporting,” Darracq said.

Darracq chose the field study to be centered around box turtles because they are safe to interact with, require no stressful chemical or physical restraint to mark, and are relatively easy to track due to their slower movements.

“This is a low-cost and safe way for these students to gather GPS data,” Darracq said. “I’m proud of the work this class has carried out, and I’m excited to see the results from this project.”

Nick Bohannon, treasurer of Murray State’s Wildlife Society chapter, is a senior studying wildlife conservation and biology. He is enrolled in Darracq’s Wildlife Techniques class and participated in the field study.

“It is hard to get experience using GPS and telemetry unless you are in a research job,” Bohannon said. “Most jobs require experience and it is very hard to get experience before that first job.”

Bohannon said he learned a lot from the field study that will benefit him in a future career. He is leaning toward entering the law enforcement side of wildlife biology and conservation.

“I learned how to use a compass and how to triangulate a location on a tagged animal using radio transmitters and receivers,” Bohannon said. “We also soldered our own GPS units to epoxy to the shell of the turtles.”

If funding allows, Darracq aims to continue this project in the future with other classes. All capturing and marking of the turtles was done with approval from Murray State’s institute on Animal Care and Use Committee and a state educational wildlife collection permit.

Murray State’s Bring Learning to Life initiative improves experiential learning outcomes through the implementation of learning experiences in which students apply principles learned in the classroom in a real-world setting.