Key to the success of our studies on wild lions is the calibration of our unique SMART (Species Movement, Acceleration, and Radio Tracking) wildlife collar. We use a lab-to-field approach involving collaborations with zoological institutions nationally and internationally. Calibrations take place in two phases:
Development of a behavioral-accelerometer signature library
To correlate accelerometer outputs of the collar with actual animal behaviors, accelerometer data from the SMART collar are matched to time-synched video and diary recordings of instrumented animals moving freely in enclosures and open fields.
Controlled exercise stride-energetics calibration trials
In this portion of the study, we correlate locomotory events with energetic demands of the lions. This is accomplished by measuring the metabolism of animals from zoological collections that are trained to wear the SMART collar while walking or resting on a treadmill.
Our species specific, calibrated SMART collars are then deployed on free-ranging animals. In this way we are able to monitor the instantaneous behavior and energetics of wild lions moving across the African landscape. We have successfully used these methods to examine a wide variety of exercising mammals including minks, domestic dogs and river otters, wolves, mountain lions and soon African lions and polar bears.