A team including researchers from the
A paper detailing the project, called 'Movement-based Estimation and Visualization of Space Use in 3D for Wildlife Ecology and Conservation', was published
Relying on expertise from researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the
From Days to Minutes
"We were able to speed up their software by several orders of magnitude," said
What started as a supercomputing challenge - since 3D modeling is much more computationally data intensive than 2D - actually became an exercise in optimizing codes that makes it possible for the current problems of interest to be done on laptops or even smart phones.
"While the researchers with the
Gordon is being used to create interactive visualizations, and will make it easier for the software developers to explore the impact of algorithmic modifications on the quality of the solution.
The visualization expertise was provided by
"We made changes to write the data into a more compact format, which enabled swift output and ingestion," said Chourasia. "A key goal was to allow the experts to visualize the data directly on Gordon via remote access, as it is essential to minimize data movement and replication especially when data sizes grow. Currently, we're working to fuse data from various sources such as topography and climate to further aid the understanding of such habitats."
2D or Not 2D
"Our collaborative research team has created a novel and powerful tool for visualizing and modeling animal home ranges in 3D that harnesses the power of SDSC to fully exploit the increasing size and quality of 3D animal biotelemetry tracking and datasets," said
Specifically, the project's advancement centered on the use of 3D technology for home range estimators, as opposed to traditional 2D systems typically used by ecologists. In a graphic image, the x and y axes denote width and height, while the z axis denotes depth, or vertical movement. The team developed what is called a movement-based kernel density estimator (MKDE) to estimate animal movements.
"We show that analyses and visualization using 3D MKDEs are more accurate and informative than traditional 2D estimators in representing the space use of animals that have a substantive vertical component, such as those that fly, traverse steep terrain, or dive in the water," said
"Biologists and ecologists are only beginning to recognize the value of incorporating the vertical aspect into analyses, which more realistically represents the space used by an animal," added Tracy, who developed the key algorithm vital to this research.
One aspect of the study focused on learning more about the range and movements of the
"We have been calculating home ranges for the tracked condors in three dimensions for the first time using this GPS location data, and our novel density estimator was used to incorporate the vertical component of animal movements into projections of space-use," said Sheppard.
Although the team successfully developed appropriate algorithms for creating 3D home ranges, actually extending animal home range volumes into 3D is computationally demanding, especially for animals tracked using highly accurate GPS telemetry devices for which high-resolution home ranges should be calculated to capitalize on the fine-scale location data collected.
"It is also highly computationally intensive to generate 3D home ranges from GPS telemetry data collected from animals that occupy habitats encompassing large areas, such as the
Using this 3D technology, researchers can link the resulting home range data to customized climate models of condor habitats, also in 3D, to generate high-resolution images of condor spatial behaviors, habitat use, and the climatic conditions that stimulate and modify condor movements.
"This data will be used as a predictive management tool to inform conservation efforts to restore condor populations, particularly with regard to emerging threats such as climate change and wind energy impacts," added Sheppard.
Big Data and Ecology
On a broader note, Sheppard noted that the field of ecology is entering the era of 'Big Data' so it is imperative that new analytical and visualization tools be developed that can process, manage, and analyze these increasingly large and accurate multidimensional datasets acquired from biotelemetry tracking devices and remote sensing technologies. "Otherwise ecologists and conservation managers may literally not be able to see the forest for the trees," he said.
Additional information on the project is at http://www.werc.usgs.gov/animalspace3d and a blogpost can be read here.
In addition to Tracy and Sheppard, researchers for the study included
The California Condor tracking part of the study was funded or supported by San Diego Zoological Global, the
TNS 30TagarumaMar-140703-4787180 30TagarumaMar
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