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Tropical forests under surveillance

Panama City, Panama -- Difficult environmental conditions and complex biological interactions make it tough for tropical biologists to understand animal behavior, climate change effects and highly biodiverse plants and forest organisms. On Monday, July 29, 2002, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) convened a diverse group of rainforest biologists with engineers at the forefront of sensor and communications technologies to brainstorm new ways to apply technology in tropical research and conservation efforts.

According to the symposium organizer, Julio Escobar, President of Centauri Technologies Corporation, field biologists may be unaware of the latest technological innovations as they plan research strategies, or may be unable to afford novel equipment. Furthermore, new technologies designed for commercial purposes may not easily lend themselves to biological applications.

Advanced sensor technologies in concert with modern communications platforms will be vastly more useful to researchers if they are intentionally designed to monitor an incredibly complex tropical environment where a huge variety of organisms interact.

Elusive ocelots, bats flying through underbrush and male beetles who secretly manipulate their mates were the study subjects mentioned as biologists came up with a "wish list" of questions to be answered if the appropriate technology were available. Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals at the New York State Museum commented that the first challenge to an understanding of animal behavior in the tropics is simply the ability to find the same animal several times in order to make multiple observations. With Martin Wikelski, Assistant Professor of Zoology at Princeton University, Kays will implement an automated telemetry system on Barro Colorado Island to locate animals via an array of radio towers designed to replace chasing individually radio-collared animals through the forest with a hand-held antenna with the ability t
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Contact: Julio Escobar
jescobar@centauritech.com
011-507-315-1060
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
1-Aug-2002


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