Automated Behavioural Response System (ABR)

For a great 4-minute Nature of Things video summary of our work, click here! We developed an Automated Behavioural Response system (ABR) comprising a custom-built motion-sensitive speaker system that can be paired with any commercially available camera trap, providing the means to conduct playback experiments directly testing the behavioural responses of any species that can be ‘caught’ on a camera trap. The ABR provides the ability to experimentally test virtually any animal anywhere, 24 hours per day, without the need to have an observer present; creating vast new opportunities to explore the behaviour of rare or nocturnal or potentially dangerous species, as well as those with an aversion to humans, which our ABR experiments are showing – appears to be most species (visit our Collaborations page for details).

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ABR Experiment in Uganda
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Deer Experiment in Georgia
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ABR Experiment in Eswatini
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Cougar Experiment in California
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Raccoon Experiment in BC, Canada
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Badger Experiment in UK
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ABR Experiment in South Africa

Our Upgraded ABR Model: Collaborations Welcome

We built our original ABR model (Mark 1) in 2015 and tested it in Uganda, and then developed a second model (Mark 2) and tested it in British Columbia (Canada) and California (USA) as detailed in our paper describing the ABRs [PDF]. We have since vastly upgraded the ABRs and are now using a Mark 4 system, which possesses programming permitting broadcasting of playbacks sequentially, randomly, at scheduled times, or sequentially or randomly within scheduled times. Moreover, the Mark 4 now produces amazing HD videos (as shown below). The experiments described under the Collaborations tab which we conducted in South Africa, Eswatini, Georgia (USA), Sweden, and Australia were all accomplished using Mark 4 ABRs. We received a large grant to obtain 100 Mark 4 ABRs, and are happy to collaborate with anyone on their use anywhere. To contact us concerning collaborating in use of our ABRs, please send us an email.

Where we have Conducted Experiments with the ABR Our Newest Model (Mark 4) of ABR in South Africa

Our ABRs Featured on Nature of Things with David Suzuki!

Examples of ABR Footage

Below are some fun example videos from the ABRs from California, USA (cougar), and Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa (others).

VOLUME WARNING: Sounds of playbacks and the vocalizations of wildlife (especially the elephants) can be quite loud! Enjoy!

Highlighted News

New PNAS paper [PDF]
Fear of predators in free-living wildlife reduces population growth over generations

Fear itself can halve wildlife populations in 5 years or less!

We report experimentally demonstrating for the first time in any free-living wild animal that the fear predators inspire can itself reduce prey population growth rates. Fear itself caused cumulative, compounding adverse effects on fecundity and every component of offspring survival, reducing the number of young reaching adulthood by 53%. Moreover, these adverse effects extended to those reaching adulthood showing evidence of impaired brain development likely to shorten their survival during adulthood – representing a transgenerational impact reducing population growth over generations.