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Optimizing trilateration estimates for tracking fine-scale movement of wildlife using automated radio telemetry networks

February 10, 2022

A major advancement in the use of radio telemetry has been the development of automated radio tracking systems (ARTS), which allow animal movements to be tracked continuously. A new ARTS approach is the use of a network of simple radio receivers (nodes) that collect radio signal strength (RSS) values from animal-borne radio transmitters. However, the use of RSS-based localization methods in wildlife tracking research is new, and analytical approaches critical for determining high-quality location data have lagged behind technological developments. We present an analytical approach to optimize RSS-based localization estimates for a node network designed to track fine-scale animal movements in a localized area. Specifically, we test the application of analytical filters (signal strength, distance among nodes) to data from real and simulated node networks that differ in the density and configuration of nodes. We evaluate how different filters and network configurations (density and regularity of node spacing) may influence the accuracy of RSS-based localization estimates. Overall, the use of signal strength and distance-based filters resulted in a 3- to 9-fold increase in median accuracy of location estimates over unfiltered estimates, with the most stringent filters providing location estimates with a median accuracy ranging from 28 to 73 m depending on the configuration and spacing of the node network. We found that distance filters performed significantly better than RSS filters for networks with evenly spaced nodes, but the advantage diminished when nodes were less uniformly spaced within a network. Our results not only provide analytical approaches to greatly increase the accuracy of RSS-based localization estimates, as well as the computer code to do so, but also provide guidance on how to best configure node networks to maximize the accuracy and capabilities of such systems for wildlife tracking studies.

Publication Year 2022
Title Optimizing trilateration estimates for tracking fine-scale movement of wildlife using automated radio telemetry networks
DOI 10.1002/ece3.8561
Authors Kristina L. Paxton, Kayla M Baker, Zia Crytser, Ray Mark Provido Guinto, Kevin W. Brinck, Haldre Rogers, Eben H. Paxton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70228682
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center