As my daughter and I paddled away from the Suwannee Canal launch area for our three-day overnight excursion into the Okefenokee Swamp in March 2022, our eyes scanned the banks for our first alligator spot of the day. Not too far up the channel we came across a fairly large gator half submerged among the Maidencane. But what caught my attention most was the bright red tag attached to its tail labelled “136”. This had to be an individual from a UGA research project!
There is a lot of exciting research that has been going on for several years within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Swamp Park. Researchers from the University of Georgia have been capturing and tagging alligators and fitting some with satellite trackers. More and more on my recent trips to the Okefenokee, I have been excited to photograph one of the individuals involved in their studies. Spotting these tagged gators brings back memories of the trip that sparked my own alligator fascination back in the 1900’s!
The tracking information is used to plot the alligators’ movements through the swamp and provide ideas about range sizes, the wanderings of males, the nesting habits of females, spatial ecology and habitat preference. You can even watch real-time tracks of these gators online! (https://www.ocearch.org/tracker/) The organic samples are also brought back to the lab for genetic and toxicology studies (https://www.facebook.com/UGACoastalEcologyLab/posts/356449716494430).
To learn more about UGA’s studies or sponsor an alligator satellite tracker, see https://gail.uga.edu/giving/ecol/alligator-research-and-education