Scottish environmental scientists using phone technology to monitor diminishing population of Harbour Seals off Orkney Islands in ‘Internet of Seas’ project
Environmentalists in Scotland have created mobile phones for seals in order to track their movements and feeding habits.
The technology was developed following alarming revelations that the Harbor Seal population in the Orkney Islands has gone down by about 70 per cent in the last ten years.
In order to identify the cause, the University of St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) teamed up with Vodafone to develop a mobile transmitter that can track where seals go at sea and relay the information when they return to the surface near shore via a mobile network.
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The new sensors are harmlessly attached to the seals, because seals don’t have pockets, in order to log detailed data on the animals’ behaviour, such as location and dive depth, as well as temperature, salinity and, eventually, underwater sound.
With this information they will be able to identify the causes of pollution as well as the various effects this has on the oceans ecosystem and may unlock clues as to why the seals population numbers are dwindling. It forms part of a project dubbed “The Internet of Seas”.
Batteries power the transmitters for over a year – long enough to continue monitoring and transmitting the data until the device comes off during the seal’s annual moult.
Dr Bernie McConnell, Deputy Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit, has seen the impact we are having on our seas first hand from his research in the Orkney Islands and strongly believes we need to be taking much more care.
He said: “We have to think more carefully about how we use the oceans and ensure we don’t use the oceans as a dumping ground.
“It’s a living system and if we don’t take care of it, it will get ill.
“The drop in the Harbour Seal population could be one of those symptoms”.
The project is part of a campaign called #CaseForChange, which tells powerful stories of human change, all backed by mobile. A video has been released documenting Bernie’s work including tips on what we can do to save our oceans.