Tatqiq, a 14-year-old polar bear at the San Diego Zoo in California, is helping scientists gain knowledge of her endangered species by simply wearing a specialised collar.

Over several months, the 236kg polar bear has been fitted daily with a collar that tracks her movements so biologists can understand the behaviours of the animals. The 1kg white collar is fitted with an accelerometer that measures her movements.

Tatqiq is wearing it as part of a US Geological Survey (USGS) project studying energy needs of polar bears that live in the Arctic. The accelerometer measures three types of movement - up and down, side to side and back to front - 16 times per second.

"What we're doing is calibrating accelerometer data to actually be able to identify discreet behaviours for polar bears in the wild. How often bears are spending resting, how often bears are spending walking, how often they're swimming," said Anthony Pagano, a research wildlife biologist at USGS.

Pagano says it is similar to technology humans use to measure their activity, such as pedometers, which track walking.

"It's similar type of technology that athletes are using, for quantifying how far they're walking, how many steps that they're taking, and what their calories are that they're burning. It's a very similar type of technology, we're just applying it, in this case, to polar bears," said Pagano.

The data recorded from the accelerometer will be compared with video taken by USGS researchers of the polar bear's activity on exhibit.

Joining these two types of data will give scientists the ability to read the wave graphs created by the accelerometer data and understand the behaviour they represent, including swimming, pouncing, walking or running. By looking at data from collared polar bears in the wild, researchers will be able to determine what the bears were doing without needing to observe them directly.

"Tatqiq is wearing this collar, and she is just a rock star pro at wearing this collar, she teaches us things every single day," said San Diego Zoo's senior keeper Susan Purtell.

The San Diego Zoo is home to three polar bears: Tatqiq, her brother Kalluk and another female, Chinook. The animals are a threatened species due to climate change-driven habitat loss.

Conservation and science work takes place locally at the zoo as well as at international field programmes on six continents.