Thanks to GPS, ecologists today can track thousands of animals all the time with tracking devices that can be smaller than a quarter. But in 1970 there was just a weather satellite, a 23 pound collar, and an elk named Monique. Between spooky elk herds, inconsistent darts, a rowdy press gaggle, angry letters, an upside-down collar, and a couple of upsetting deaths, Monique’s tracking didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. Back then scientists really didn’t know where animals went, and tracking them on the ground, even with radio, was arduous and provided incomplete data. So even if it wasn’t perfect Monique’s tracking was a huge breakthrough.

Today, ecologists like the ones at Smithsonian’s Movement of Life Initiative and the ICARUS project track animals from pole to pole and from the tops of mountains to deep under the sea. Insights from these trackers help with habitat conservation and breeding but might also be able to predict the next pandemic. On this episode of AirSpace, we talk to some of the scientists who use space to track animals here on Earth.


AirSpace is made possible by the generous support of Olay.

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