It isn’t unusual for scientists to place tracking devices on various species to learn about their patterns and habits.
However, it is unusual to hear that the same will be done on a new species – humans.
Scientists are using this method to learn how people and their movements affect ecosystems in national parks. Park visitors carrying global positioning devices have provided Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado data to improve shuttle service to popular and often congested areas.
A similar study done at Yosemite National Park in California tracked where people stroll through two popular meadows and pause occasionally to take in the view, according to Phys.org.
Through this study, researchers from Penn State and Utah State universities are helping Grand Teton National Park make decisions about a notable southern approach to the park, including whether or not it should add things such as parking areas and restrooms along the way. Traffic along the road has increased 25 percent in just the past eight years or so, according to The Tampa Tribune.
Participation is entirely voluntary, and according to researchers, anywhere between 80 to 90 percent of people asked to participate in Grand Teton between 2013 and 2014 do so. Furthermore, very few people failed to return the devices upon leaving the study area.
Questionnaires handed out along with the bare-bones GPA units asked various questions, such as what people wanted from their visit and then cross-referenced that data with where people went.
“We really need very detailed information on kind of exactly where people went when they traveled off trail,” said Ashley D’Antonio, a postdoctoral researcher at Utah State’s Department of Environment and Society.