A computer in space is helping researchers tune in to the movements of animals on Earth through a project led by the Max Planck Society in Germany. It’s called the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space, or Icarus for short, and it’s being used to track the behaviors and migrations of birds, bats, turtles, bears, cheetahs, jaguars, and more. The project uses a network of wearable sensors on animals to transmit on-the-ground data to an Icarus antenna on the International Space Station.

“Those kinds of things are ground measures. It’s hard to get a remote sensing system to do that because you can’t tune into all the senses an animal has,” says Martin Wikelski, research director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany. “We’re using these animals and their senses, especially their interactive senses, as a tool to understand what’s happening.”

In a paper published this week in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the team provides an overview of the data they’ve been able to collect with the system so far, and outlines what they imagine the next steps to be.

The goal is to create an “internet of animals” that can tell researchers how ecosystems are changing in real-time and how animals are responding to those changes. This, they imagine, would be done by combining information from the wildlife wearables with other data on animal behaviors across space, time, and different environments. For example, to understand if the boundaries of wetlands are changing, they would look at shorebirds. If they want to look at snowmelt, they would follow the movement of geese. If they wanted to look at disease transmission, they could track how bats are moving around in Africa. And if they tagged animals that lived around a volcano, then, if these animals start behaving weirdly, researchers can see if the unusual movement patterns can help them make predictions about when the volcano will erupt.

Source : https://www.popsci.com/technology/icarus-transmits-animal-sensor-data-to-iss/