06 August 2016

INNOVATION - Space Station to be Used for Animal Conservation

A breakthrough in animal tracking technology could lead to revolutionizing the way man tracks animals across the globe.
The ICARUS Initiative (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space), founded by Martin Wiselski and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, is getting ready to launch a new technology that Wiselski has dubbed as ‘the best ever possible sensing network of life on the planet’.
The technology is ‘extremely light radio tags that can be attached to the tiniest of animals’ and will be launched and implemented in the Russian Service Module of the International Space Station in June 2017 – with the ability to monitor and track hundreds, or possibly thousands of birds, bats and other animals in real time.
This ‘space station safari’ could result in major contributions to global species conservation efforts.
The potential impact of ICARUS is yet to be determined. Scientists are confident the project will enable them to not only better understand animals and their migratory habits, but it will help them understand more about the planet – including pathways and hiding places for animal-borne diseases and other pathogens such as the West Nile virus, SARS and bird flu, as well as the ability of animals to anticipate natural disasters.
For decades scientists have faced hurdles over how to map the courses of such animals, as satellite telemetry tags continue to be slow and expensive; with the smallest weighing at least 10 grams, this proves too weighty for any tiny avian species weighing less than 240 grams.
Wiselski came across the idea over conversation with George Swenson, one of the pioneers of using radio telemetry for tracking wildlife and one of the constructors of the Very Large Array – a radio astronomy observatory located 80 km west of Socorro, New Mexico; that was 15 years ago.
The hardest obstacle was funding.
“We went to NASA,” said Wisleski in an interview with The Atlantic. “They thought the project so unlikely that it was set in the same category as the space elevator.”
Eventually funds were secured from the German Aerospace Centre and the Max Planck Society to make the first small tags. The first generation weighed in at 5 grams and ‘comes equipped with a solar panel, GPS, and a huge memory, and can measure acceleration, temperature, bearing, pressure, light intensity, and more.’
Animals, essentially, will become easy-to-track sensors for researchers. Over time, the data will be loaded to a MoveBank – a free online animal tracking database.
Non-binding orders for ICARUS satellite tags are available to researchers now. 
By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

No comments:

Post a Comment