Frequently Asked Questions

What is Motus?

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative research network that uses a coordinated automated radio telemetry array to track the movement and behaviour of small flying animals. Researchers fit small lightweight radio-transmitters on animals such as birds, bats and large insects, and their signal is detected by receivers scattered around the landscape. The data from these receivers is then centralized at the Birds Canada National Data Centre where it is filtered, analysed, archived, and disseminated to all researchers and organizations in the network. Each tag emits a unique signature sowe can determine where animals go, how fast they transit between points (migration ecology), and how long they stay in an area (stop-over ecology), among many aspects about their behavior and conservation. The purpose of Motus is to facilitate landscape-scale research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. It is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organizations.

What is unique about Motus?

As students of migration ecology, we’re ultimately after the ability to know everything about all individuals at all times. Unfortunately, the technology required to do this for most flying migratory animals, particularly the smallest bodied ones, does not exist. Therefore, biologists have to use a combination of complementary tools such as tracking-based geolocators, GPS and GSM, GPS and Geolocation data loggers, as well as isoptopic, genetic, and good old bird banding/ringing to discover the complete life histories of migratory animals. While often viewed as having competing value, these tools are undeniably complementary, and researchers need to employ the best tool for the job given the specific questions and study system in mind. What is most unique about Motus is that it provides an opportunity to track the widest variety of the smallest animals possible, today, at local, regional, or hemispheric scales depending on the location and species in question. And best of all, almost anyone can get involved in one way or another – Motus is the ultimate hands-on community science project. Another important differentiation between automated radio telemetry and other technologies available is that the temporal precision of the data can be much greater with radio telemetry as tags can repeat their signals as quickly as every 2 seconds. This extremely high temporal precision can allow for exceptionally detailed examinations of an animals behavior, movement patterns, direction and speed of flight. The selection of specific tag type will largely depend on the spatial temporal scale of your study as well as your study species and geography.

Can I see some data?

Yes! You can view some of the results of Motus Projects here.

What animals can be tracked with Motus?

The initial motivation for creating Motus was to track migration of birds that are normally too small for satellite and some data logger telemetry, but the system is already being used on other small animals such as bats, and large insects. The main limitation with battery powered tags is the battery life. The smallest tags, which have a battery life of only a couple weeks, can be affixed to larger insects such as butterflies and dragonflies. Solar tags alleviate the issue of battery life, but are typically larger than some battery-powered tags. To view a list of projects currently being implemented, and the species being tracked, click here.

Are there receivers in my area?

You can view the map showing the location of the receivers.

Why the name Motus?

Motus is Latin for movement, or motion. One of the central objectives of Motus is to enable conservation and ecological research by providing a way to track the movement of animals.

Sounds great! How can I participate?

Motus is a collaborative project Researchers who want to track animals can use the existing Motus network and have access to detection data from all receivers within the Motus network regardless of who maintains those stations. Researchers and other organizations or individuals are also encouraged to deploy their own stations to expand the geographic coverage of the network. If you have any questions about Motus or would like to join the effort, contact us.
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