"Geese in Space"
Scientists from Ducks Unlimited (DU) are monitoring the southward migration of 24 Canada geese. The geese have been outfitted with lightweight satellite transmitters with tiny antennas. Armchair scientists are invited to take part in the trip by visiting www.ducks.org.

Dr. Bruce Batt, chief biologist at DU, is directing the study with Dr. Richard Malecki of the NY Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University. The project is now in its second year. The biologists will use the collected data to track the movements of Atlantic Flyway Canada geese. They hope to learn more about where the geese go during migration, where they spend the winter and when they move from one location to the next. Batt and Malecki are trying to uncover the reasons behind a precipitous population decline that started in 1987. "This is one of the last frontiers in goose biology. Even the most basic information about their numbers and where they breed is lacking. We need to know these fundamentals so we can refine our management," explained Batt.

"The research is already proving valuable. Last year, the geese we tagged in Greenland didn't stop in the Maritimes at all. Instead they flew directly to Long Island, New York," said Mark Gloutney, Du's conservation program manager in Atlantic Canada. The geese that did touch down in the Maritimes stayed longer than anticipated, possibly a result of last year's mild fall weather. Gloutney also said eight of the 24 geese tagged last year died, primarily during migration. This is a very low survival rate. Researchers are watching this year's survival rate with a keen eye.

This August, 20 geese from Labrador and four geese from Newfoundland received transmitters. Weighing only 35 grams, the radio transmitters are attached to the birds with a flexible harness. The radio sends signals to satellites that circle the globe. The data is sent to a receiver on Earth and then transferred by Internet to the researchers' computers. The signals are timed to provide a location of the geese every third day.

This year, 12 of the 24 birds are being tracked on the "Geese in Space" web site at www.ducks.org. See footage of the birds and track them as they move through Atlantic Canada southward along the east coast of the United States. Questions about the research can be e-mailed directly to a waterfowl biologist involved in the study.

DU's partners in the study include the Knox Foundation, Tudor Farms Incorporated, the NY Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University, and the National Environmental Research Institute in Denmark.

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