Birds' migration secrets to be revealed by space tracker

Icarus, a wildlife receiver circling above Earth, will monitor the epic journeys of tiny birds and insects, helping to warn us of volcanic eruptions and to protect us from diseasesSmall birds, butterflies, bees and fruitbats will be fitted with tiny radio transmitters and tracked throughout their lifetimes from space when a dedicated wildlife radio receiver is fitted to the International Space Station next year.The ability to follow the movements of very small organisms hour by hour from space will revolutionise our understanding of long-distance bird migrations, and give advance warnings of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. And it should also help protect human populations from animal-borne diseases like Sars, bird flu and West Nile Virus, say conservationists.Many animal species migrate continuously but biologists know the exact movements of only very few, mostly large ones. But the low-orbit Icarus wildlife receiver circling 200 miles (320km) above Earth should allow even butterflies to be followed, said Uschi Müller, co-ordinator of the €40m project, which is backed by the German and Russian space agencies and 12 scientific groups."To start with, Icarus scientists will use 5g transmitters but in the future we will use much smaller ones, under 1g, which will allow us to follow insects. It will be used for conservation, health and disaster forecasting", she said.Because animals are known to sense imminent tectonic activity, she envisaged birds and othe...
Source: Guardian Unlimited Science - Category: Science Authors: Tags: Bird flu World news Health Society Birds Animals International Space Station Insects The Observer Environment Science Wildlife Source Type: news

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