In 1978, under an agreement established between NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), NASA and the French Space Agency, or CNES, a satellite-based location and data collection system dedicated to monitoring the movement of wild animals was formed. This satellite system, called Argos, affords environmental agencies the ability to locate and track any animal movement globally within 150 to 1,000 meters. At least two satellites are simultaneously in service to provide full global coverage. Once the transmitter is placed and activated, Argos can begin collecting data from the system satellites and sending the information to the Argos centers for processing. Data can then be retrieved from anywhere in the world, often times within 20 minutes of transmission. Miniaturized transmitters offered by Argos are as small as a matchbox weighing as little as 23 grams. These tiny, specially designed models are used to track small birds and other animals.
For birds like the Trumpeter Swan, these small transmitters are placed on a harness that is strapped onto the back of the bird to track their migration paths. While for the Andean Condors these transmitters are attached directly to the wing of the bird. Manually adjusted for each bird, the transmitters allow them to fly freely and unencumbered. Once in place, signals are uplinked to the satellites, back down to the ground stations and finally collected by the wildlife researchers using the data. The Argos satellite system provides these researchers with vital information that helps them to better understand the instinctive territorial movement or migration of thousands of different animal species around the world. Through a greater understanding of wildlife, we can learn better methods of protection for endangered and threatened species.
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