Biologging / Feed

Real-time tracking of animal movements is enabling more effective and efficient wildlife monitoring for management, security, and research. As devices get smaller and prices drop, the possibilities for using biologging on a larger scale have grown, and so have the possibilities for increasing customisation to meet specific research needs. Likewise, real-time tracking of illegal wildlife trade, timber, and fish products as they move from source to consumer can shed light on trafficking routes and actors, as well as support enforcement, making tracking gear a powerful tool beyond the field.


Tracking poop... (and therefore seed dispersal)

Hi all, I am working in a group looking to understand the role of forest elephants in structuring tropical forest communities. A part of this project would be determining how...

2 0

Hi Chris, 

Interesting challenge! Over on twitter, Ian Redmond has a suggestion: 

What makes #elephants such important #GardenersoftheForest is that the #seeds pass through the gut undigested, ready for #germination miles from parent plant. How about acid-proof radio-transmitters in crush-proof pseudo-seeds that you insert into ripe fruit where eles forage?

— Ian Redmond (@4Apes) November 30, 2017

What to you think? I'd be interested to hear from any of our engineers, would this sort of approach be feasible?


Just to close this issue - I developed some iButtons and radio trackers which could be encased in medical safe epoxy and inserted into fruits for consumption by elephants. Unfortunately our focal elephant was very fussy... and she spat out all of the seeds in her fruits! Luckily she happily ate colour plastic beads... so we used those to calculate gut passage times. Sometimes the old school methods are the best methods!

See full post

Solar balloon to better track wildlife

Hi everyone, We're developing an areal platform autonomous in energy. It a balloon inflated with helium and covered with solar panels. It can lift up to 5 kg and generate...

8 0

Hi Albin,

I have attempted this (see videos below). We only had one day to trial the systems and predictably the winds were not in our favour. 

I used the kit from the Public Lab weather balloon.

and we built the picavet along with tracking hardware.  Was very DIY!

Happy to answer questions.




Thanks Steph,

No write-up. This little experiment was squeezed into some actual work.  Very happy to describe components if someone is interested.

The balloon hobby project morphed into an UAV project using Software Defined Radio dongle as the VHF receiver.

I'm reluctant to hijack Albin's thread here other than to say that I should write something about the Wildfind project and note Al Brown's huge contribution to the work. He did the software, I just created the problem and a half-baked solution.




See full post

Next Generation Animal Tracking Ideation Challenge

NASA Tournament Lab
NASA and The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have launched the Next Generation Animal Tracking Ideation Challenge, seeking your ideas for how to use emerging SmallSat/CubeSat technology along with other Space,...

See full post

Mataki-LITE: lessons learned from petrel tracking (Part II: Base-stations)

Dear all,  I recently used Mataki-LITE GPS tags (Debug Innovations, Cambridge, UK) and I thought it would be helpful to share the set-up I used...

2 0

Power: Given the remoteness of Diablotin’s nesting sites (30 miles from the coast, ~2,000m above sea level, in the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, Dominican Republic), I needed to rely on gear that easily be transported and adapted in the field (with limited access to electricity), withstand fog, rain and humidity, was allowed on international flights (cheaper than shipping to the Dominican Republic), could and was as cheap as possible. To power the base-stations, I chose Li-ion powerbanks as they are allowed on regular flights and (unlike car batteries) are easy to transport and affordable. Most regular powerbanks, though, have a safety feature that stops sending power when the device they recharge does not draw enough current: this is to avoid over-charging a fully-charged device. Since the Mataki-CLASSIC base-station draws very little current, typical powerbanks stopped after a few minutes. For this reason, I used Voltaic Systems’ V44 battery packs as their “Always On” feature is designed for low-power IoT.

Circuit: Since the battery’s 12,000mAh weren’t sufficient to keep the base-station safely running for the tracking period I needed (~ 1 month, at 480mAh per day), I paired it with a 5.5W solar-panels. The circuit was minimal (attachment 1): the solar-panel recharged the V44 battery, which delivered 5V-2A in “Always-ON” mode. The 5V-3.7V step-down regulator connected the battery to the base-station, in parallel with the 1,000µF capacitor.

Antenna: Given the dispersion of the nests of tagged petrels, I chose an omnidirectional antenna. A directional, Yaggi-antenna could have been helpful for downloads from a distant vantage point, had the nests been clumped together. Each antenna had a maximum range of ~300m in open terrain but irregular relief and dense vegetation decreased that distance to ~100m. Note that in our region, the authorized UHF channel for private communications is 916mHz – this frequency might be different in other regions.

Enclosure: I enclosed the base-stations in a very simple version of this waterproof solar battery case, using a 1040 Pelican case: I trusted Pelican cases to have a good quality/price ratio. The battery barely fitted inside the case (I had to shorten the male 5.5x2.1mm input plug). While I still drilled a hole in the case, I didn’t use the M60 nut. Instead, I covered the hole and the cables (for the antenna and solar-panel) with Sugru and waterproofed them with 2-part epoxy: this allowed me to adapt the base-station more easily to the local conditions. For good measure, I also added a handful of desiccant packs into the case. Finally, I deployed the base-stations in open canopy, as close to the nests of the Black-capped petrels we tagged as possible. I tried to position the solar-panel to face the midday sun, a time when the morning fog had already burnt off but the afternoon clouds not yet rolled in (attachment 2: Deployed base-stations).

Results: When we picked them up after a month and a half in the field, the base-stations had worked perfectly for the whole time. The battery levels stayed fairly consistent at >4.8V and with an individual range of about 0.5V. The panels positioned in full sun actually over-compensated the continuous power draw from the base-station.

Only a third of the deployed loggers had communicated with their respective base-stations but this could have several causes that were independent from the base-stations: logger battery life, waterproofing, attachment method; petrels staying at the nest for periods that were too short to communicate with base-stations; burrows that were too deep to allow radio waves.


I hope this will be useful, and please keep adding to the conversation.



See full post

Mataki-LITE: lessons learned from petrel tracking (Part I: GPS loggers)

Dear colleagues, I recently used Mataki-LITE GPS tags (Debug Innovations, Cambridge, UK) and I thought it would be helpful to share the set-up and...

4 1


- Data recording rate:

1) Attachment location: It is likely that our attachment location on the underside of the tail had a negative impact on the recording rate. To avoid rectrix breakage and undue bouncing when flapping, we decided to center the loggers’ weight as close to the base of the tail as possible: loggers placed on top of the tail would have covered the uropygial gland therefore we chose to attach them on the underside, between the undertail coverts and the rectrices, with the GPS antenna pointing up.

2) GPS fix time: The location of GPS satellites at the time of recording might have prevented successful logging. Indeed, while GPS devices used by the general public have an ample supply of power that allows them to always be in communication with the network’s satellites (“hot start”), low-power wildlife tracking devices only activate GPS communication at the time of logging (“cold start”). Thus the amount of time required for a successful GPS logging (which is limited a priori to optimize power consumption) is affected by the location of GPS satellites at the moment of the cold start. The 4-minutes limit on GPS fix might have been to short.

- Data recovery rate: Several possibilities exist for the lack of transmission:

1) Waterproofing failure: tests were performed to ensure that the waterproofing technique used in this study was resistant enough to sustain repeated immersions.

2) Death of tracked bird: The chicks of all tracked petrels were observed alive and in good condition in two visits in June and July, suggesting that tracked birds did not die during the tracking period.

3) Early loss of logger: Though the type of tape attachment I used in this study (which I reinforced with epoxy and a zip-tie) has been successful with other seabird, it is possible that rectrices broke off. I chose this technique instead of a dorsal attachment to keep the loggers from rubbing against the roof of rocky burrows, and to avoid the possibility of entanglement in hanging roots.

4) Early drain of logger battery:  Remote-download GPS loggers such as Mataki-LITE have two main drains of power: 1) activating the GPS module to listen to communications from the network’s satellites, and 2) using the UHF radio to communicate with the base-station and, later, upload tracking data. I had written the logging script to optimize battery use through a geofence and a low-voltage mode. Based on recovered tracking data, it appears that none of the functioning loggers had entered the low-voltage mode during the ca 10 days at-sea though two of them had battery levels below the low-voltage threshold at the time of uploading data to the base-station (Table B.2). Since logger battery levels are only recorded when they send a heartbeat to the base station, it is unclear if these low battery levels had been reached earlier during the tracking period without triggering the low-voltage mode, had triggered the low-voltage mode but GPS data were not recorded, or resulted from a power drain due to radio communications.

5) Not enough time within range of base-station: It is possible that the loggers that did not transmit tracking data were not able to contact their respective base-stations despite having sufficient battery voltages. Radar surveys and camera-trapping at breeding colonies showed that Black-capped Petrels may reach speeds up to 70km/h when arriving at colonies and enter their burrows instantly. Upon leaving the nest, petrels stay <5 minutes outside the burrow. Pre-deployment trials showed that loggers placed at a burrow’s entrance were able to communicate with base-stations but loggers placed inside a burrow’s tunnel were not. The 2-minute heartbeat activated inside the 25-km geofence to optimize power should have been sufficient to upload tracking data but loggers that had failed to trigger the 25-km geofence (or that had already entered the low-voltage mode) were less likely to be within range of the base-station (~200 m) for long enough to send a successful heartbeat.


Mataki-LITE tags have a steep learning curve but they very adaptabile and cheap (for remote-download tags) so I hope these lessons-learned will prove useful for everybody. 

- Future deployments may benefit from an attachment above the tail, ensuring that the uropygial gland is not covered; to avoid undue stress to the rectrices, the center of gravity of the logger should be as close to the rump as possible. Try dorsal deployments on birds nesting in large sod burrows.

- Although it is possible to extend the time period allocated to successfully log a GPS location, this would drastically increase power consumption. Therefore, try to improve attachment location before extending the GPS “ON time”.

- Simultaneous logging of GPS locations and battery levels, and GPS logging frequency may have to be decreased to optimize power consumption.

- Wider geofence radius and a higher heartbeat frequency in low-power mode.

Feel free to start the conversation and share your own scripts, deployment techniques and fixes!




See full post

Solar balloon to better track wildlife

Hi everyone, We're developing an areal platform autonomous in energy. It a balloon inflated with helium and covered with solar panels. It can lift up to 5 kg and generate...

See full post

Spacewalk for ICARUS

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
This past week was an exciting milestone for animal tracking, with the ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) Initiative's antenna successfully installed on the International Space Station. ...

See full post

RSPB Project Puffin Story Map

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has created a great story map about their recent work on Project Puffin. In this story map, RSPB details their efforts to...

See full post

Ocean Hack: San Francisco, 10-11th September, 2018

One Ocean Collab
A 48 hr pop up innovation lab for the ocean, bringing together a mix of designers, strategists, technologists, engineers, scientists, marine conservationists, educators, artists and buisness talent to co-create...

See full post

Using crowd-sourced funding to track snakes

Ashleigh Wolfe
The understanding of the interplay of movement, behaviour and physiology that biologging offers has applied relevance for a range of fields, including evolutionary ecology, wildlife conservation and behavioural ecology...

See full post

Tracking tags/collars survey - WWF Cons Tech Programme

Hi All, You may already be aware of the cons tech guidelines and supporting webpages produced by WWF-UK ( The next issues in...

3 0

Hi All,

If you've not already please do complete the above survey. Results and kudos will be shared widely!

Thanks and best, Paul

Hi Everyone,

This survey is still open so please check it out if you haven't already.  We are right below 200 participants, it would be great to boost that!  Below is one example results, lots more to come, we'll share all results when its done.



See full post

#Tech4Wildlife Photo Challenge 2018: Our Top 10

Hundreds of people joined our #Tech4Wildlife photo challenge this year, showcasing all the incredible ways tech is being used to support wildlife conservation. We've seen proximity loggers on Tasmanian Devils in...

See full post

FIT Cheetahs

Larissa Slaney
A new research project is looking to investigate whether technology combined with the ancient skills and knowledge of Namibian trackers can help save cheetahs from extinction. Called FIT Cheetahs, the research project...

See full post

Xerius tracking technology

If you are interested in hearing about what they do, then drop me a line as you are welcome to attend the meeting with them in Cambridge this Friday 26th May. The website is...

4 0

Thanks for sharing these Yvan - really interesting to see your process of designing harnesses for the tags. Please do keep us updated on the project as you progress. What made you go with the Xerius tag over others that are available?  

My other comments are largely administrative, so bare with me. Sounds like it might be helpful for us to enable more types of files to be shared on WILDLABS- I'll have a look into this. Your contribution has shifted the direction of this conversation from an event invitation to practical project/information sharing discussion, so I'm also going to move this conversation into our wildlife tracking group, as I think this will make it more readily accessible to our tracking focused members if/when you update it with your finessed designs. 


Hi Steph,

My colleagues chose Xerius because they had the fastest turn-around time (the project had a late start and birds are starting to migrate soon) and cheaper prices. The tracking specs are similar to the other manufacturers of GPS-PTTs. I have never worked with Xerius tags but I visited their lab and they struck me by their attention to details and the quality of the hardware they created.

I will keep you posted.

Hi Yvan,

Glad you have chosen Xerius as from what I have seen their equipment is excellent and I was very impressed with their telemetry knowledge. We have one of their goniometer units and this has enabled us to locate a number of our downed satellite tagged birds.

As for making up dummy tags and testing harnesses then another option is Polymorph, especially if you are working on a limited budget after paying for a number of tags! You just drop the beads  into boiling water and mould into the shapes you require easily making holes and grooves etc. It sets rapidly and as you say the addition of nuts and bolts get you to your required weights.


See full post

Pit-tag automatic detector for very small animals

Dear all very small animals (eg < 1g) cannot be equipped with VHF or GPS system to track their movements. One way is the use of passive transmitter (PIT-Tag) as emettor (...

3 0

Hi Claude,

What sort of an environment will you be doing your research in, if you don't mind recapturing them again you could try using micro coded wire tags? 

Hopefully that might be of some help to you and all the best with it.



Hi, you should explore (harmonic radar, Schottky diode 917 y 1834 MHz), the bad things it's that you can't get and ID and the receiver that uses two antennas it's really expensive (U$.7000) or use a radar system with satellite dish that would be more expensive.

Hi Claude,

If you are looking into cord antennas, the attached paper might be of interest (the authors are all from CNRS, which might be easier for collaborations).  A difference would be that you might need a faster sampling rate (since penguins are much slower than small mammals and take more time to cross the array of antennas).

Do keep us updated on your project. 


See full post

PIT tag suppliers in the UK

Hi all,  Does anyone have any recommendations for PIT tag (+ reader) suppliers in the UK?  I've used Francis Scientific Instruments before - a very small...

7 0

Hi Kai - I asked for a UK supplier, but thanks.

Hi everyone -

I had a recommendation for Apparently used successfully for a couple of projects, and designed/built some bespoke readers. The owner can be contacted on [email protected].

I went with Francis Scientific Instruments in the end, as they've been reliable and helpful on past projects. You can contact Mike (Francis) on [email protected].

Cheers, Ollie

Hi Ollie,

Thank you for the update! This will be of use to other community members!



Not been on Wildlabs for a long time but I recommend Eccel Technology in Leicester and even build them into bird rings. We have been using theirs.

RSPB have built a data logger around the Arduino and plan to put the design and code on Wildlabs sometime later in the year. There are many commercially available and cheap means of solely reading PIT or as they also known RFID tags.




See full post

GPS wildlife tracking on the cheap

Hi everyone, Should this be of interest, please see our how to on making a cheap GPS device The paper here https://euanritchie....

6 0
See full post