Document of the week | Technology at the service of wildlife

Technological innovations allow biologists to collect valuable data on wildlife. The documentary series Associated wildlife shows how developers and researchers in the field work hand in hand to better understand, among other things, the spread of diseases in bats, hares ‘behavior or turtles’ dormancy.

Posted at 13.00.

Alexandre Vigneault

Alexandre Vigneault
The press

Data collection is a crucial step in understanding animal behavior in their natural habitat. As direct observation has its limits, biologists are increasingly using electronic devices to remotely track turtles, wolves, moose, birds or hares in various provinces and territories of Canada. The documentary series Associated wildlifepresented at ICI Explora, shows how valuable these tools are.

The purpose of some research is directly related to climate change, as you can imagine. Placing transmitters on migratory birds, for example, makes it possible to know whether they are changing their trajectory according to the availability of habitats. Tracking snowshoes allows you to see if their behavior changes in the fall when their fur has turned white, but the first snow is falling slowly. Are they aware of their lack of camouflage during this period of desynchronization and the dangers they run?


Climate change poses a challenge to the snow shoe hare. Its fur adapts to the season and lets it camouflage itself. But what happens when his hair turns white in the fall and the snow is expected more and more?

“The technologies used are a bit similar from one episode to the next, but the way they are applied to each species is fascinating,” notes François Balcaen, who directed half of the eight episodes of Associated wildlife (the other four are signed Christine Gosselin).

You do not track a bat like you track a wolf. Not even with a device of the same size …

The series spends a lot of time in the field, following in the footsteps of biologists or following them across the water. It also transports viewers to laboratories, where devices are being developed to measure the vital signs or movements of animals. Interesting fact: these technical laboratories are sometimes run by… biologists.

“Most biologists are a bit like inventors, patent holders,” said Judge François Balcaen, who invented the ingenuity that was to be exhibited a few decades ago to adapt technological tools that were not easily manageable for observing animals. We see in the section on turtles “Scientists have to do a lot of tests to find the right way to stick a transmitter on the shells.”

Valuable collaboration

For example, getting your hands on the right GPS technology is not enough. You also need to find a way to tie it securely … and securely to the animal. It is therefore necessary to know its habits, its morphology, yes its diet. Hence the valuable collaboration between specialized firms that understand the issues in the field. “What biologists have told me over the course of the series is that progress has been spectacular over the last ten years,” sums up François Balcaen.

Associated wildlife While highlighting the use of technologies, what stands out most in the documentary series is the know-how and intimate knowledge that biologists have about the species they observe and their habitats.

One cannot scrutinize the behavior of hares without knowing where to find them, how to handle them, feed them and release them without affecting them.

“They are first and foremost biologists,” says François Balcaen. Technology is used to support their research and open leads on things they already know. It is people who have spent years in the field who see things that we as citizens do not see. , when we walk in the woods … ”

On ICI Explora on Tuesday from June 28 with two episodes per. evening, one at 20.00 and the other at 20.30.

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