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Going underground: tracking badgers using wireless networks


Andrew Markham has recently been awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)cross-disciplinary fellowship to undertake research into tracking and monitoring badgers in their underground burrows.

Conventional technology such as GPS simply doesn’t work underground, as soil heavily attenuates radio signals. Andrew has designed a novel technique that uses low frequency magnetic fields to continually and automatically map the positions of animals in 3-D. Furthermore, the badgers act as mobile mappers and over time reveal the internal architecture of the tunnel system.

The system uses conventional short-range (Zigbee) wireless links to transfer data from the badger collars to a wireless network. The purpose of this study is to completely characterise the behaviour and habits of badgers within their setts, and also to monitor the ambient environmental conditions.

This work has the potential to address open questions about the transfer of bovine TB within a badger population. The core technology is not
restricted to use only on animals, and can be used in other environments where radio tracking is hindered, such as indoors or in parking garages