The Application of Drones in Ray Research
Animals move in response to the dynamic pressures present within their environment. Shifts in spatial ecology of a species represent an adaptive response to new or altered environmental pressures, thus understanding the drivers of animal movement and how their influence varies over time underpins effective ecological management. Chapter 1 highlights the opportunities of drones in monitoring the behaviour and habitat use of rays. Regulatory, environmental, technical and operational challenges for drone research and issues associated with monitoring ray behaviour are also discussed along with promising solutions. In Chapter 2, drone technology was used to determine the drivers of fine-scale movement in stingrays, focusing on a population of short-tail stingrays (Bathytoshia brevicaudata). Smaller rays swam with more erratic swim trajectories than larger rays. Rays were more active on the high tide compared to the outgoing tide and were most likely to exhibit bursts of speed at noon (11am-1pm). Body size, tide and time of day all influenced ray movement. Understanding the ecological variables and the impacts of human activity on the fine-scale movement of rays is integral to the implementation of effective management strategies for this group of animals and their ecosystems.