The goal of the ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) Initiative is to observe global migratory movements of small animals through a satellite system.
Global data about animal movements are indispensable in our today international networked world to understand how to safe human health and wildlife simultaneously. To this date scientists are unable to follow small animals and insects on their long journey. Billions of songbirds move every year from continent to continent. Also many bats and numberless species of insects manage long distances and in doing so possibly move from one continent to another. We do not know exactly. However, this knowledge plays a fundamental role to understand the propagation of pathogens through their hosts for instance to preserve ecosystem services or to predict natural disasters through intelligent sensors of animals. To remedy the worldwide lack of knowledge about the distribution and the individual migratory habits of small animals and insects, an international consortium of scientists got the ICARUS project underway in 2002.
The project which was rated excellent in the ELIPS program of the European Space Agency (ESA) by the European Science Foundation in 2009 is funded by DLR aerospace management since 2012 as a scientific project in the framework of the “National aerospace program space station and manned spaceflight” and also supported with great commitment from the Russian Aerospace agency ROSCOSMOS. Since December 2013 the Max Planck society finances, parallel to the funding of the DLR, the miniaturizing of the ICARUS radio chip.
It is expected that the ICARUS experimental system will be installed on the Russian module of the International Space Station (ISS) in cooperation with the Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS in June 2017. With the data generated by ICARUS, scientists expect revolutionary new insights about life, behavior, vital functions and death of the animals on our planet. The globally collected data allows us among other things conclusions for the spread of diseases (zoonosis), understanding of climate change and disaster forecast. The research results to be expected here are of invaluable importance for mankind and finally for life on earth.
Martin Wikelski, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Professor at the University of Constance, is the chief strategist for the ICARUS project.
Tagging flying foxes, Kasanka 2013
‘At its core, the main mission of ICARUS is to alter fundamental human understanding of life on earth by giving animals an opportunity to communicate with us’.