animals – T.Technology and nature go hand in hand sometimes. If these two terms are generally opposed, a new project titled ICARUS attempts to prove the opposite. Target? Create a massive bio-site network of at least 100,000 animals equipped with tags In order to be able to follow the evolution of climate and ecosystems.
The study began in September 2020, and was explained in the April issue of the journal Trends in ecology and evolution. It all started with the blackbird. The bird is already the first animal to be equipped with a new type of beacon called ICARUS (an acronym for the International Collaboration on Animal Research Using Space). The latter sends their data to an antenna on the International Space Station (ISS).
Closer to Earth (about 400 km), the pilot needs less power and a smaller battery than if it was sent to a satellite. This makes Icarus Signals smaller and lighter. So it is easier to put them on small animals, migratory birds in general.
Thanks to this, the researchers intend to create a real “animal internet”, the applications of which will be numerous. They hope to be able to prevent some natural disasters such as storms and hurricanes, but also to protect biodiversity by combating deforestation, poaching, etc.
Of course, such sensors can cause inconvenience to the animal. However, “each beacon is designed to be as secretive as possible,” he explains HuffPost Romain Laurellier, researcher at CESCO. The latter is also working with ICARUS models as part of a similar French programme, the Kivi Kuaka project.
The war in Ukraine complicates matters
The war in Ukraine brought research using ICARUS beacons to a standstill, such as the project of the same name run by the Center for Biodiversity at Yale University in the United States and the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany.
In fact, the signals are sent to an antenna installed on the Russian part of the International Space Station (for technical reasons). However, with the current conflict, any partnership with the Russian agency responsible for data recovery has ceased. However, the Internet of Animals was not born dead, as Romain Laureliere explains: “The project did not stop in its philosophy, but did.”
If there are no short-term solutions, the deal will be different in the medium term. The researcher explains that by the end of 2024, scientists (and scientists involved in the Icarus project) are working on developing a series of satellites at lower altitudes. This could make it possible to replace the antenna placed on the International Space Station, while mastering this system.
Once the animal is equipped, the guide transmits a large number of data (in particular the GPS) which can be accessed for free online on a platform called Movebank. Currently, the sensors are deployed in 91 locations on all continents As shown in the tweet below:
According to Romain Laureliere, “If we have to see an end goal in this, it is to improve early warning systems.” Animals are already a favorite ally in gathering information in remote areas, which can help, for example, help solidify weather forecasting models.
Thus, the Internet of animals will be an aid to meteorology, which will make it possible to more effectively identify future natural disasters. This seems especially helpful, as a new United Nations report says the world may soon experience more than one disaster a day.
An example of this contribution: tuna. Animals are prey to heavy hunting which causes fear for their survival, and the latter can prove to be important allies in estimating the origins of hurricanes. In fact, as Romain Laureliere explains, “observation of tuna has shown that they are looking for warm waters full of fish) which are the core of hurricanes.”
So the internet of animals is going to be good for us humans, but it’s also obviously good for biodiversity. A study was published in temper nature It shows, for example, that this system can predict the presence of poachers in the African savannah with an accuracy of about 86%.
A similar application exists at sea. To spot illegal fishing boats (which sail under the radar), a study composed in particular of French researchers used albatrosses as sentinels. These different works are explained in more detail In the video below From the famous biologist Léo Grasset:
Previously, scientists acquired knowledge much more difficult, accompanying animals in this field. But the internet of animals doesn’t mean that everything will become computerized, as researchers look at dots on a screen and choke on satellite data. Because it will always be necessary to place the beacons and perceive the reality on the ground.
Thus, Martin Wikielsky, an ornithologist at the University of Washington emphasizes The New York Times That “this physical distancing (…) conceals the deeper contact allowed by tracking wildlife”. The optimism is therefore justified, as the Icarus signals represent a real turning point for scientists in the analysis of ecosystems and biodiversity.
always in The New York TimesIt represents a “new era of discovery,” Walter Getz says, adding, “We’ll discover new migration routes, new habitat needs, and things about species behavior we haven’t even thought about.”
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