Team leader: A. Univ.Prof. Dr. rer.nat. Thomas Ruf
The location of individuals and the continuous measurement of physiological parameters in free-ranging wild animals is an essential part of modern wildlife ecology research. The most suitable method is the use of an electronic distance measuring technique - known as telemetry.
The Institute has acquired a distinguished standing in this area, as its in-house engineering team is able to collaborate closely with researchers at the Institute to find technical solutions for the issues under investigation, developing and manufacturing customized electronic measurement systems. Thus the Institute does not depend solely on commercially available products and can, for example, measure physiological processes for which there are no industrial measurement instruments.
As many of our sister institutions at home and abroad do not have their own technical development department, the telemetry lab at the Institute also offers expertise to a number of national and international research collaborations.
To answer many of the institute´s research questions requires devices that can simultaneously transmit multiple physiological and physical parameters over long distances using a wireless transmitter, or that permit measurements to be stored directly on the animal over long periods of time. For this purpose the telemetry lab has developed suitable high-performance devices that are constantly updated and adapted to new problems. These devices provide information about animals´ location and can simultaneously measure heart rate, body temperature, locomotor activity, and ambient temperature. In birds they can also transmit and/or store flight altitude. Depending on the question and the species these measuring devices may last as long as several years on one battery charge and can have a reach of up to ten kilometers of range.
In many species some parameters can be measured only by implanted sensors and transmitters. To avoid surgical intervention in some animal species and to minimize stress for the animals, special efforts are being made to develop non-invasive methods of attachment of telemetry devices. In recent years the telemetry lab has developed a heart rate and body temperature transmitter for ruminants that can be swallowed ("radio pill"), which is now used widely in the Institute´s research projects.
Other current development priorities in the telemetry lab are: microprocessor-controlled miniature data loggers for body temperature with a weight of just 3 grams, and time-programmable location transmitters that provide time of day choice and/or seasonal on/off intervals to extend battery life.
The list of species studied using contributions from the telemetry lab is long (in alphabetical order): aurochs, badger, deer, garden dormouse, edible dormouse, elephant, goat, domestic goose and grey goose, ibex, meadow viper, marmot, moose, orangutan, Przewalski's horse, rhesus monkey, slow loris, tarsier, vulture, wild ass.