Empirical Analysis and Modeling of Argos Doppler Location Errors in Romania

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© 2019 Rozylowicz et al. Background: Advances in wildlife tracking technology have allowed researchers to understand the spatial ecology of many terrestrial and aquatic animal species. Argos Doppler is a technology that is widely used for wildlife tracking owing to the small size and low weight of the Argos transmitters. This allows them to be fitted to small-bodied species. The longer lifespan of the Argos units in comparison to units outfitted with miniaturized global positioning system (GPS) technology has also recommended their use. In practice, large Argos location errors often occur due to communication conditions such as transmitter settings, local environment, and the behavior of the tracked individual. Methods: Considering the geographic specificity of errors and the lack of benchmark studies in Eastern Europe, the research objectives were: (1) to evaluate the accuracy of Argos Doppler technology under various environmental conditions in Romania, (2) to investigate the effectiveness of straightforward destructive filters for improving Argos Doppler data quality, and (3) to provide guidelines for processing Argos Doppler wildlife monitoring data. The errors associated with Argos locations in four geographic locations in Romania were assessed during static, low-speed and high-speed tests. The effectiveness of the Douglas Argos distance angle filter algorithm was then evaluated to ascertain its effect on the minimization of localization errors. Results: Argos locations received in the tests had larger associated horizontal errors than those indicated by the operator of the Argos system, including under ideal reception conditions. Positional errors were similar to those obtained in other studies outside of Europe. The errors were anisotropic, with larger longitudinal errors for the vast majority of the data. Errors were mostly related to speed of the Argos transmitter at the time of reception, but other factors such as topographical conditions and orientation of antenna at the time of the transmission also contributed to receiving low-quality data. The Douglas Argos filter successfully excluded the largest errors while retaining a large amount of data when the threshold was set to the local scale (two km). Discussion: Filter selection requires knowledge about the movement patterns and behavior of the species of interest, and the parametrization of the selected filter typically requires a trial and error approach. Selecting the proper filter reduces the errors while retaining a large amount of data. However, the post-processed data typically includes large positional errors; thus, we recommend incorporating Argos error metrics (e.g., error ellipse) or use complex modeling approaches when working with filtered data.