A simple tool for linking photo-identification with multimedia data to track mammal behaviour

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Identifying individual animals is critical to describe demographic and behavioural patterns, and to investigate the ecological and evolutionary underpinnings of these patterns. The traditional non-invasive method of individual identification in mammals—comparison of photographed natural marks—has been improved by coupling other sampling methods, such as recording overhead video, audio and other multimedia data. However, aligning, linking and syncing these multimedia data streams are persistent challenges. Here, we provide computational tools to streamline the integration of multiple techniques to identify individual free-ranging mammals when tracking their behaviour in the wild. We developed an open-source R package for organizing multimedia data and for simplifying their processing a posteriori—“MAMMals: Managing Animal MultiMedia: Align, Link, Sync”. The package contains functions to (i) align and link the individual data from photographs to videos, audio recordings and other text data sources (e.g. GPS locations) from which metadata can be accessed; and (ii) synchronize and extract the useful multimedia (e.g. videos with audios) containing photo-identified individuals. To illustrate how these tools can facilitate linking photo-identification and video behavioural sampling in situ, we simultaneously collected photos and videos of bottlenose dolphins using off-the-shelf cameras and drones, then merged these data to track the foraging behaviour of individuals and groups. We hope our simple tools encourage future work that extend and generalize the links between multiple sampling platforms of free-ranging mammals, thereby improving the raw material needed for generating new insights in mammalian population and behavioural ecology.




Machado, A. M. S., & Cantor, M. (2022). A simple tool for linking photo-identification with multimedia data to track mammal behaviour. Mammalian Biology, 102(3), 961–971. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42991-021-00189-0

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