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Biotelemetry is used by researchers to track the interactions of animals with each other and the environment. While advancing technology has led to the development of numerous biotelemetry tools, radio telemetry remains the most common method for tracking small animals. Moreover, telemetry tracking of animal movement is an important skill for entry-level positions in wildlife biology. Thus, hands-on experience using radio telemetry provides students with an advantage as they pursue careers in wildlife biology, as well as an opportunity to build science process skills. We present a lesson in which students use radio telemetry to track animals; collect, analyze and interpret spatial data; and consider its applications to local wildlife management and conservation. Students submit their data to a national database collecting observations from multiple institutions as part of Squirrel-Net ( The aggregated data allows students to generate and test hypotheses across a broader variety of species and habitats than would be possible at any single institution. The lesson is designed for adaptation to diverse educational contexts, from a single two-hour laboratory period (basic skills acquisition) to a semester-long student-driven research project (open inquiry Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience, or CURE). Although this activity and the national database focus on spatial data for squirrels, which are diurnal, charismatic, easily identified, and present on most college campuses, the same methods and materials can be modified for any animal capable of carrying a radio transmitter and being safely tracked by students.


Published in CourseSource. Available via doi: 10.24918/cs.2020.25.

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