Whooping Crane Tracking

Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane tracking project is a collaborative effort with ecologists to track Whooping Cranes during their migration. The cranes are an endangered species, which is native to North America. The cranes are difficult to study because of their long distance migrations (as seen below), small numbers, and preference for remote nesting grounds.

To effectively manage the remaining population, we have partnered with ecologists to provide a next generation monitoring device. This device surpasses previous tracking efforts by not only providing information on the birds' locations, but also a bird's behavior. This detailed information will provide better information on environmental conditions affecting the birds, as well as quantitative data on their flight characteristics. This device will also utilize low cost communication methods to deliver the information in a more timely manner than was previously possible.


Migratory Path


Hardware Platform

In order to effectively track the migrating cranes, we have built and deployed a custom tracking system. This system utilizes cellular networks to complement the traditional short range radio systems found in wireless sensor networks. Utilizing this multi-modal communicaiton system enables the system to maintain connectivity on a continental scale during migration, as well as conserve energy in the nesting and breeding grounds by using the short range radio.


Power consumption and generation are major concerns for this project. Because the sensor must be very light and small, we are only allowed to send a small, single-cell lithium polymer battery. Relying on this battery alone would not allow the scientists to monitor the cranes for very long. For these reasons, we have included a small solar panel in our design to recharge the battery.


Solar Panel


System reliability is a high priority with this project. The birds are inaccessible throughout much of their life, and once captured, it is extremely rare to recapture a bird at a later date. A monitoring device can potentially remain attached to a bird for several years. Thus, it is imperative for the system to be as fault-free as possible, and be able to cope with any unexpected failures during its mission. To this end, we have been utilizing a variety of testing procedures, as detailed in Simulating and Testing Mobile Wireless Sensor Networks, which appeared at MSWIM '10.


Below is a demo video showing some of the cababilities of the solid-state compass. Using the compass, it is possible to monitor rotation and acceleration in all three axis.
Compass Demo.zip



Bennett, W. P., M. Fitzpatrick, D. Anthony, M. C. Vuran, and A. Lacy, "Poster Abstract: Crane Charades: Behavior Identification via Backpack Mounted Sensor Platforms", The 11th ACM/IEEE Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN'12), Beijing, China, Apr. 2012.  Download: 
Anthony, D., W. P. Bennett, M. C. Vuran, M. Dwyer, S. Elbaum, A. Lacy, M. Engels, and W. Wehtje, "Sensing Through the Continent: Towards Monitoring Migratory Birds Using Cellular Sensor Networks", to appear in ACM/IEEE Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN'12), Beijing, China, Apr. 2012.  Download: ipsn19-anthony.pdf (1.04 MB)
Anthony, D., W. P. Bennett, M. C. Vuran, M. Dwyer, and S. Elbaum, "Technical Report: CraneTracker100 Platform Description", TR-UNL-CSE-2012-0001, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, 02/2012.  Download: cpntracker_tr.pdf (1.76 MB)
Bennett, W. P., D. Anthony, M. C. Vuran, M. Dwyer, S. Elbaum, and W. Wehtje, "Demo: CraneTracker: A Multi-Modal Platform for Monitoring Migratory Birds on a Continental Scale", The ACM 17th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom'11), Las Vegas, NV, Sept. 2011.  Download: mobi_demo.pdf (489.55 KB)
Anthony, D., W. P. Bennett, M. C. Vuran, M. Dwyer, S. Elbaum, and F. Chavez-Ramirez, "Simulating and Testing Mobile Wireless Sensor Networks", 13th ACM International Conference on Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation of Wireless and Mobile Systems (MSWIM'10), Bodrum, Turkey, ACM, pp. 49-58, 10/2010.  Download: mswim_2010.pdf (546.7 KB)