Murray State students build GPS trackers to locate box turtles

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Murray State students in a wildlife techniques course taught by assistant professor of wildlife biology Dr. Andrea Darracq are combining technical skills with field experience through a new box turtle tracking project.

MURRAY -- Murray State students in a wildlife techniques course taught by assistant professor of wildlife biology Dr. Andrea Darracq are combining technical skills with field experience through a new box turtle tracking project.

Through the university's Bring Learning to Life Grant, Darracq's students soldered together open-source GPS tracking devices, then located box turtles on an off-campus Murray State University property and tracked them using the GPS tracking devices and a transmitter. The GPS tracking devices allow students to record turtle movements every hour, while transmitters require the presence of a student and their use of a receiver to determine a turtle's location.

"This is a student-centered project where I have groups of students in the classroom constructing GPS tracking devices and independently going in the field to locate the turtles," Darracq said. "Our students are gaining great experience from manually triangulating each turtle's location and comparing it to the more precise readings their GPS units are reporting."

Darracq chose box turtles because they are safe, require no stressful chemical or physical restraint to mark and are easy to track. The project's overall goal is to demonstrate the value of GPS technology compared to traditional telemetry and provide students with hands-on experience in marking and tracking turtles.

"This is a low-cost and safe way for these students to gather GPS data," Darracq said. "I'm proud of the work this class has carried out and I'm excited to see the results from this project."

Pending funding, Darracq aims to continue this project with future classes. All capturing and marking of turtles was done with approval from Murray State's Institute on Animal Care and Use Committee and a state educational wildlife collection permit.

Murray State's Bring Learning to Life initiative improves experiential learning outcomes through the implementation of learning experiences in which students apply principles learned in the classroom in a real-world setting.

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