#22: Project Terra – Wildlife Tracking in Your Own Backyard with Scott Whittle and Mike Lanzone

#22: Project Terra – Wildlife Tracking in Your Own Backyard with Scott Whittle and Mike Lanzone Nature's Archive


My guests today are Scott Whittle and Mike Lanzone of Project Terra and Cellular Tracking Technologies

Scott is a bird expert and author. His passion for the natural world has led to co-authoring The Warbler Guide, the Warbler Guide App, and contributing to the Birdgenie bird song identification app.

Scott Whittle

Mike is a Research Biologist turned technologist, and is the Founder and CEO of CTT – Cellular Tracking Technologies, a leading manufacturer and innovator of wildlife trackers using various cellular, satellite and radio technologies.

We start off discussing CTT and their interesting origin story, attempting to identify if eastern Golden Eagles would be impacted by proposed wind power facilities. CTT has advanced the technology significantly, creating the “Internet of Wildlife”, allowing larger animals like eagles to be “repeaters” of data from smaller songbirds, overcoming limitations of how large of systems that these smaller birds can carry.

We also discuss a few of CTT’s conservation success stories, such as Project SNOWstorm, which tracks Snowy Owls.

Mike Lanzone

Our primary topic is an exciting new project called Terra. Terra intends to dramatically expand wildlife tracking in the form of a system that you can place on your own property. 

Terra is intended to help people connect with nature, while simultaneously filling in crucial gaps in wildlife data, such as bird song variations, details about migratory flight paths, and even information about other animal vocalizations such as cicadas, crickets and frogs. 

Terra expects to use nocturnal flight calls (NFCs) to help identify migratory bird paths and volumes, so we spend some time talking about NFCs, and how important these unique, often single note calls are.

Terra is in late stage development, and has launched a kickstarter to help get it over the finish line. We discuss how Terra works, the technology inside, what a corresponding app might look like, privacy, and speculate on the plethora of potential research topics that will result from a network of Terra devices.

If you are interested in Terra, please check out the Kickstarter, which ends on July 1. We discuss exactly what a kickstarter is in the show, but the short story is kickstarter is basically how new ideas such as Terra get community funding, and are thus critically important for the success of projects such as this. And by backing projects on kickstarter, you get perks to help make it worth your while.

A Terra Device

People and Organizations

Andrew Farnsworth – ornithologist at Cornell Lab well known for migration research and use of radar tracking. See my interview with Dr. Farnsworth, too!

Casey Halverson – Mike recruited Casey to help develop the first cell-based GPS trackers

CTT – Cellular Tracking Technologies, the company founded by Mike Lanzone that has pioneered new ways to transmit wildlife GPS and sensor data for conservation projects.

Macaulay Library – Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s wildlife media archive

oldbird.org – site by Bill Evans that is considered the resource for NFCs (Nocturnal Flight Calls)

Project SNOWstorm – Snowy Owl tracking project started with Scott Weidensaul and David Brinker

Xento-canto – website dedicated to sharing bird vocalizations from around the world.

Books and Other Things

Bringing Nature Home – by Doug Tallamy

The Warbler Guide – Innovative field guide to warblers that includes spectrogram visualizations of warbler vocalizations. Co-authored by Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson.

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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