US Department of Agriculture, USDA Forest Service, Technology and Development Program Banner with Logos.
Images from various aspects of the T&D Program.
HomeAbout T&DT&D PubsT&D NewsProgram AreasHelpContact Us
Search T&D
  Search all USDA
Program Areas
Left Nav Bottom
T&D > Programs Areas >Inventory & Monitoring >Demonstration of Satellite/GPS Telemetry for Monitoring Fine-Scale Movements of Lesser Prairie-Chickens Program Areas
Demonstration of Satellite/GPS Telemetry for Monitoring Fine-Scale Movements of Lesser Prairie-Chickens

Rey Farve, Project Leader

Methods And Equipment Used In Demonstration Deployment

Below is a description of the equipment and methods used in the demonstration deployment.


Prior to actually purchasing a platform transmitter terminal (PTT) for satellite/GPS telemetry, a user must first obtain permission to use the Argos Satellite System. Below is a description of the process for gaining use of the Argos System and the process of acquiring a PTT.

1. Argos Satellite Data Collection System
Potential users of the Argos data collections system must first complete a System Use Agreement and Technical Information Form with Argos to obtain their approval for use of the Argos System. The Argos approval process is found at: <>.

If the agreement is approved, Argos sends the user an ID number for each PTT that the user plans to deploy. The user ID is needed for the manufacturers of the PTT (see discussion of the PTTs below).

The subscription cost for using the Argos Satellite System depends primarily on the number of PTTs used and the amount of time (hours) that PTTs is actually transmitting data. As such, subscription cost likely will vary from month-to-month depending on a variety of factors that influence how many PTTs are actually transmitting data. The summary provided in table 1 is an average cost (in 2012 dollars) for the subscription cost for using 2–8 PTTs during the most active months that data was transmitted (typically during spring–fall) of the 2 years of the demonstration deployment. This is provided to give the potential user a general sense of what maximum subscription cost/PTT might be for a deployment of PTTs.

Table 1 - Maximum monthly subscription cost (in 2012 dollars) for use of the Argos Satellite Data Collection System incurred during the demonstration deployment
# of PTTs Average Monthly* Cost ($) Monthly* Cost per PTT ($)
8 345.76 43.22
7 320.57 45.80
5 214.29 42.86
4 183.10 45.78
3 147.89 49.30
2 93.83 46.91
*Average of the months of highest usage - typically April–November.

2. Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs)
To demonstrate satellite/GPS telemetry we purchased Solar Satellite/ GPS PTTs from Microwave Telemetry, Inc. (figure 8).

Graphic of Microwave Telemetry, Inc. logo
Figure 8 - Microwave Telemetry, Inc.

For the demonstration, we used the smallest/lightest GPS/Satellite PTT available on the market—the 22g Solar Argos/GPS PTT (figure 9) (cost in 2011 was $3,950 each). We defined the daily duty cycle for obtaining GPS fixes as: 0400 hours to 2200 hours every other hour. Also, the PTTs were manufactured to upload all GPS locations to the Argos satellite once every 3 days.

Photo of Microwave Telemetry's Solar Aros/GPS PTT.
Photo of the Argos/GPS PTT resting the the palm of a person's hand.
Figure 9 - Microwave Telemetry's 22g Solar Argos/GPS PTT.

This 22-gram (g) device added less than 3 percent to an average LPC's body weight (as reported for LPCs [table 2]), per the oft-cited 3–5 percent "rule-of-thumb" for animal-born devices. (More detailed discussion on 3–5 percent "rule" is at: Mech and Barber [2002:30] and Wilson and McMahon [2006].)

Table 2 - Average body weight of adult LPC (from "Birds of No. America Online")
LPC Average
weight (g)
3% of
Male 790 23.7
Female 740 22.2

Note: During the course of the demonstration deployment we were able to capture seven male LPCs; these birds had an average weight of 824g (actual weights: 790g; 750g; 850g; 900g; 820g; 860g; 800g).


Since SDTDC expected there to be a significant "learning curve" for us to negotiate as we demonstrate this technology, we acquired the services of Brian Bedrosian of the Craighead Beringia South to assist in the demonstration. Brian has extensive experience in using satellite/ GPS telemetry to track the fine-scale movements of greater sagegrouse in Wyoming (Bedrosian 2009).

1. Capture of LPCs
During the spring of 2011 (early April to early May), we used walk-in traps on the leks and were able to capture three males and fit them with PTTs.

In the spring of 2012 Craighead Beringia South provided the team with rocket-launched nets (the Coda net launcher and modified portable rocket-net system [see Grubb 1991]), and we were able to capture four male birds and fit them with PTTs.

PTTs were retrieved only after they become dislodged from birds. (See discussion in section IV.2, on PTT recovery.)

2. Attachment of PTTs
Bedrosian made harnesses for the team to use in mounting the PTTs on the rumps of LPCs and instructed the team of the rumpmount technique. (See figure 10)(For more details on the rump-mount, see Bedrosian and Craighead 2007 and Bedrosian 2009.)

Photo of Kraig Schultz kneeling down in a field, preparing to release a male LPC. The LPC has a rump-mounted Satellite/GPS PTT which is circled in the photo.
Figure 10 - Kraig Schultz (Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks) prepares to release a LPC with rump-mounted PTT.