Handheld lasers allow efficient detection of fluorescent marked organisms in the field

Kevin B. Rice, Shelby J. Fleischer, Consuelo M. De Moraes, Mark C. Mescher, John F. Tooker, Moshe Gish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marking organisms with fluorescent dyes and powders is a common technique used in ecological field studies that monitor movement of organisms to examine life history traits, behaviors, and population dynamics. External fluorescent marking is relatively inexpensive and can be readily employed to quickly mark large numbers of individuals; however, the ability to detect marked organisms in the field at night has been hampered by the limited detection distances provided by portable fluorescent ultraviolet lamps. In recent years, significant advances in LED lamp and laser technology have led to development of powerful, lowcost ultraviolet light sources. In this study, we evaluate the potential of these new technologies to improve detection of fluorescent-marked organisms in the field and to create new possibilities for tracking marked organisms in visually challenging environments such as tree canopies and aquatic habitats. Using handheld lasers, we document a method that provides a fivefold increase in detection distance over previously available technologies. This method allows easy scouting of tree canopies (from the ground), as well as shallow aquatic systems. This novel detection method for fluorescent-marked organisms thus promises to significantly enhance the use of fluorescent marking as a non-destructive technique for tracking organisms in natural environments, facilitating field studies that aim to document otherwise inaccessible aspects of the movement, behavior, and population dynamics of study organisms, including species with significant economic impacts or relevance for ecology and human health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0129175
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Rice et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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