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GPS Tracking Device: Tsunami Tracking, West Coast

Jul 01, 2015 05:40 PM EDT
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Debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan is still washing up on North America's West Coast.

floating GPS transponder that looks like a large soda bottle, set adrift in January 2012 by scientists at Tattori University in Japan. Transponders have landed before, as in this case in Oregon

Now, scientists are pretty sure that the device landed on Vancouver Island, on British Columbia's west coast--and they're asking locals to keep an eye out for it.

Sam Chan, an associate professor at Oregon State University who studies aquatic invasive species, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the transponder has been helping track the movement of marine debris after the tsunami. 

"The marine debris that was moved out by the Japanese tsunami in 2011 actually carried with it organisms. These transponders can help us explain how some of these organisms are able to survive long journeys," Chan told the CBC.

The device was spotted recently off the West Coast, Chan told the CBC.

Also, about four months ago, the bottle's signal showed that it was hovering off Vancouver Island, Chan said.

Researchers now believe that someone picked up the transponder and took it to Campbell River, a town on Vancouver Island, according to CBC.

While the device communicates its position through satellites, it contains data that needs to be physically downloaded. Another transponder was found last summer off the coast of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago of islands west of the B.C. coastline.

Tracking information is viewable on the Tattori University website.

The transponders, released between June 2011 and January 2013, have batteries that usually last about three years, after which they no longer report their location, CBC reported. 

Follow Catherine at @TreesWhales

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