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Case Study: Seeing the Big Picture at Queen’s University’s New Ecological Observatory

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Over the years, we’ve demonstrated that support by contributing to, and collaborating with, several universities and academic programs. Most recently, we have begun an exciting partnership with the Queen’s University Biological Station, Carleton University, and the Illinois Natural History Survey (University of Illinois) to create a new research vehicle known as the Queen’s Ecological Observatory.

The new observatory has ambitious goals: in addition to serving as a testing ground for new biotelemetry technologies and as a centre for exchange between academic and industry experts, we intend for it to become a pioneer site for a new way to collaborate on ecological research — the first of many nodes for international data exchange and analysis.

Using our most advanced acoustic tracking system, researchers at the observatory have already gathered two entire years’ worth of daily data on a group of largemouth bass at Warner Lake near Kingston, Ontario. Not just “presence/absence” data, mind you. The MAP system that we supplied to the observatory has allowed them to capture the precise 3-D location, and surrounding water temperature, of each individual bass, every 15 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That’s a lot of information — so much, in fact, that it requires a large database just to store it all, and special software tools to mine it for all of its insights into bass behaviour.

In fact, the abundant spatial and temporal information being collected will continue to reveal new facts about fish, fish interactions and lake ecology for years to come. The intent of the Queen’s Ecological Observatory is to make its data available for scientists in other universities and countries to analyze as well. The ability to view what amounts to a continuous “data movie” of a group of fish — and eventually other animals as well — reacting not only to their environment but also to each other, on such a fine scale, provides valuable information to scientists from many different disciplines. Indeed, the observatory’s new technologies open such a rich new window on nature’s myriad interactions that scientists will be able to address some larger biological and ecological issues for the very first time – leading, no doubt, to many new questions and studies in the future.

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