The International Space Station Just Became a Powerful Tool for Tracking Animal Migration
by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com
In 2018, scientists launched an antenna into space dedicated solely to tracking the world’s animals. From its perch 240 miles above Earth on the International Space Station, the antenna receives signals from tiny transmitters attached to more than 800 species of animal ranging from elephants to bats, reports Katharine Gammon for Inside Science. After some early setbacks, the tracking system was switched on in March. Data from the project may be available to researchers on Earth as early as this fall, according to a statement.
“The sensors allow animals to be our eyes and ears and noses in the world, and we are linking it all together,” Martin Wikelski, the director of migration research at the Max Planck Institute, tells Inside Science. Wikelski has championed the project, called ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space), for just shy of two decades and hopes to expand it in coming years to a network of satellites capable of tracking hundreds of thousands of animals in real time, reported Andrew Curry for Nature in 2018.
ICARUS won’t just map the locations of its legions of animal collaborators, the transmitters also record information on the creature’s physiology and surrounding environment, reports Jim Robbins for the New York Times.