ambience: transistor, clicks, beeps, radio communication
Alistair Melzer: “In about half an hour, we will actually start tracking a koala. And you’ll start to get the trick of it quite quickly.”
We’re on St. Bees Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Alistair Melzer and his teams of Earthwatch volunteers have been studying the koalas that inhabit the island. A number of the koalas here have been captured and fitted with radio collars, and the team finds the koalas by tracking their signals. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
Andy (Earthwatch volunteer) as he speaks, we can hear the beeping of the tracking device on his receiver.
“Alright, now basically I am holding this antenna up high in the air and trying to catch a radio signal, and playing with the gain. Right now I’ve got a pretty good signal. As I reduce the gain and I’m still getting the signal back, basically that means I’m getting closer.”
“One of the problems you have with this sort of radio signal is that it bounces off things it will bounce off hillsides, it will bounce off water. One of the other arts that you’re going to learn is interpreting where in fact the signal is coming from.”
ANDY over radio: “Yeah, we’re on the third reading. We weren’t able to pick up anything really. Just a faint signal back down the hill.”
AM: “Okay, that’s possibly means you have to go higher, believe it or not. It may be you’re so close under the ridge that the signal’s being blocked out. So go up to the crest of the ridge and listen again. Over.”
Andy: “Copy that.”
AM: “Most likely they’re over these ridges. This time of year a young male will be finding his way through the territories of a mature male. And every time he goes too far into one territory he’ll be driven back and driven out of that territory. So, if his collars still working, he’ll be zigzagging all over the island, eventually may go over to the other side of the island where we can’t access him.
Andy: “I think we’re really close, everybody.”
Will the team actually find a koala? Stay tuned. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.