Theodolite Tracking in Marine Mammal Research: From Roger Payne to the Present

Abstract: In the early 1970s, Roger Payne and colleagues developed a non-invasive, shore-based method for collecting data on free-ranging marine mammals in their natural environments. By using a theodolite, or surveyor’s transit, they were able to collect data on nearshore marine mammal movement patterns, habitat use, and behavior without any disruption to the animals. As technology advanced, theodolite data collection progressed from analog machines requiring manual data entry to digital equipment linked to computer software that facilitated data management and automated calculations of marine mammal positional information. There are limitations associated with theodolite use, and concurrent data collection methods can contribute information that may not be possible with shore-based research alone. Since the first published research in 1978 using a theodolite to describe the behavioral ecology of dolphins off Argentina, at least 46 species of marine mammals in 36 countries have been tracked by theodolite, and the method continues to be used globally to contribute to non-invasive marine mammal research, conservation, and management.
Key Words: theodolite, marine mammal tracking, movement patterns, land-based
Document: Article
Page Numbers: 683-693

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