How to make bird-tracking devices lightweight and long-lasting?
“We got rid of the battery entirely,” said David Winkler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, who led the development of the solar tags through a bioengineering development group called TABER (Technology for Animal Biology and Environmental Research). “These are the first really small, totally solar-powered wildlife tags.”
Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT) is now commercially producing the trackers, called Life Tags.
Ornithologists may now gather invaluable data on migration routes and dispersal using 3-D printed harnesses developed by TABER and CTT: Life Tags can be permanently attached to birds without discomfort or hindrance, allowing researchers to track small birds over the course of their lifetimes.
To solve the problem, TABER and CTT are testing the employment of larger birds to track smaller birds, in a first test they are calling “VultureNet.” Turkey vultures with a battery-run receiver tuned to the frequency of the Life Tags will share air space and migration routes with smaller birds, such as tree swallows or sanderlings, that ornithologists want to study.
In addition, they are already planning an AlbatrossNet, to distribute receivers in the open ocean.