The NYT Sunday Review carries a fascinating piece on how US and European wildlife officials are using the full panoply of ICTs and big data analytics to manage eco-systems and human-animal conflict. I’ve always felt that Beniger’s discussion of control was central to any realistic understanding of what is happening with big data and ICTs. What happens with animals today may happen with humans tomorrow. Starting in the early 2000s, the recovery program employed ancient and contemporary technology: Net-guns, fired from helicopters, were used to capture bighorn outfitted with collars that carried both GPS and VHF radio transmitters; professional hunters, meanwhile, tracked and darted every mountain lion in the area to outfit them with collars that carried VHF radio transmitters. Biologists at computer monitors began to watch bighorn movements.
GPS tracking devices are appearing all over the place. This NYT article gives a very positive spin to the tagging of wild animals and to the making of the data widely available, seeing it as a way of building public support for conservation. Some scientists are beginning to provide the public with direct access to tracking data. For instance, the leaders of the Tagging of Pacific Predators project, a 10-year tracking study of 23 different marine species, created a Web site broadcasting the movements of their subjects in real time (or close to it). While the project lasted, anyone with an Internet connection could follow the wanderings of Monty, the mako shark, Genevieve, the leatherback turtle, or Jon Sealwart and Stelephant Colbert, both northern elephant seals.