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Call for collaborations – get some devices!

Posted on January 3rd, by Robin Freeman in General, News. 17 comments

We are excited to announce that we are planning an open call for researchers and scientists to get hold of some Mataki devices. You can of course build your own using the freely available schematics and parts lists, but through the Technology for Nature unit (TfN), a close collaboration between University College London, Microsoft Research and the Zoological Society of London, we are holding an open call for collaborations that will provide research groups with a set of 20 all-inclusive Mataki devices for selected scientific research projects. Together we hope to select a total of 5 projects that will both display the potential of the new devices, but also how they can be effectively used in conservation science.

More details here: http://mataki.org/collaborate/

    17 thoughts on “Call for collaborations – get some devices!

    1. I would be very interested in trialing your tracking devices on sub-Antarctic seals. Can you give me some more information on your tag’s aquatic capacity? I will be involved in a tracking project in March 2013 (which is before your proposal deadline) but it might suit your collaboration interests.

      • Hi, seals are slightly complex as the device needs to be out of the water to obtain a fix. This can take 20-30 seconds, I’ve added some questions to the FAQ that might help you work out how suitable they are:

    2. We have used GPS units on capercaillie grouse (paper just submitted for publication) and are interested in smaller devices for putting on chicks. We would very much like to test out your new devices, but wonder about the following:
      * Will the GPS units be delivered with harness for attaching to the bird (backpack or poncho type?
      * What capacity (number of fixes) can we expect
      * Can the units be programmed to alternating fix intervals
      * I assume that VHF will not be attached, so the data need to be downloaded after recovery of the unit, or by remote downloading? Which?
      * Duration varies with battery type I presume. What will be the upper limit, with which battery weight?

      Your new technology sounds very interesting, and we would be most grateful for your information.
      Thank you!
      Per Wegge

      • Hi Per,

        The GPS devices wouldn’t come with any housings/attachements – we’re leaving that up to individual researchers. We’ve used them with heatshrink tubing on seabirds successfully, but I don’t have much experience with other attachement methods.

        The devices can record over 100k records in memory and can be programmed to sleep for a giving period, try to get a fix for a certain amount of time, then track for a certain amount of time at a given frequency (i.e. sleep for 10 minutes, try to get a fix for 60 seconds, and if you get a fix, track at 10Hz for 10 seconds).

        The devices have an integrated UHF radio (currently 868MHz, but this can be changed) to enable automatic download (this is one of the key innovations). You can configure some of the devices as base-stations, and then when the trackers come into range of the base-stations the data is downloaded automatically. Of course, the data can be recovered manually too.

        Indeed, duration varies, I’ve added an FAQ about this here, hope this helps!

    3. We would like to apply for your call for collaborations using mataki devices, but would like to inquire if any of your devices is able to be used in marine conditions…..
      Thank you for your time,

      • Hi Maggie,

        It depends what you mean by ‘marine conditions’. We’ve used them on seabirds, but for marine mammals or fish, it would depend on whether the animals were at surface for long enough. I’ve added an FAQ about this here

    4. Hi there,

      Like several others above, I’m interested in using Mataki devices on marine animals, specifically large, pelagic, migratory elasmobranchs. I understand the inability of GPS signals to transmit through water. Are the 20-30 seconds at the surface that you mention required simply to obtain a GPS location, or this the amount of time required to transmit data?

      Would it be up to the researcher to develop a suitable waterproof housing for the devices, or is that something you would be involved in?

      Finally, is radio-transmission to a second Mataki device the only option, other than retrieving the tag, for recovering data, or are there any sort of satellite transmitting capabilities built into the tag? (Or would this be possible in a future design?)


      • Hi Josh,

        At the moment – the devices only transmit to other Mataki devices, so yes at present the only ways to get data back are downloaded via another device or recovered manually. Making satellite uploads is certainly possibly in future designs and we’re looking into it, but this presents a new set of power/expense problems.

        We’d be very happy to help try and develop waterproof housings – we have facilities at UCL and Microsoft to fabricate housings, but I think it would be important to use the field experience of the researchers to help guide this process.

        The 20-30 seconds or so is the time for a first fix for a cold start. In general with GPS devices, there are three types of ‘start’ (getting a fix after losing a fix): cold, warm and hot. A cold start (30s) is when the device doesn’t have any information about where it is or the satellites in view (so getting a fix from scratch). A warm start (also about 30s) is when the device remembers the last position, but not what satellites were in view, and a hot start (1s) is when the device knows its last position and can quickly re-lock on to the same satellites.

        So if the animal has been underwater for a long period and reaches the surface, the gps will take this 30 seconds to get it’s first fix. However, once the devices has a fix, subsequent fixes in the same location should be much quicker. However, if the device loses signal and is unable to find the satellites (as it’s underwater) it may then fall back on a warm start.

        There are other receivers that are much, much faster at recording position, and are often used in marine environments called FastLoc devices by Wildtrack. But at present, our devices use normal GPS.

      • So far we’ve deployed them on Common Guillemots (Murres), Manx Shearwaters, homing pigeons. Colleagues are currently deploying them on a few more species, but we’re keen to broaden the set of species they have been deployed on

    5. Do you think the GPS unit has the capability to acquire positions through a forest canopy – especially tall tropical forest? Lisa

      • Hi Lisa,

        It’s very hard to be sure, as I haven’t had the opportunity to deploy the devices in such environments yet. However, the GPS chip we’re using does have very good sensitivity (-165 dBm), so should work as well as other modern GPS devices. Have you tried any kinds of GPS receiver/logger in the environment?


        • Hi, thanks for answering my question. I have so far worked with Microwave Telemetry inc. satellite transmitters on birds (geese) who hang out in the open areas, so we have had good results, but not very comparable. We would be interested in working with mammals as well, which is why I ask. The current lines of hand-held GPS units such as Garmin CSx do function fine in our forests, but not sure if that is a good comparison. Lisa

    6. Hi Robin,

      I am interested in applying to your call for proposals. Our project will explore the relationship, and underlying mechanisms, between cats and dingoes in the deserts of Western Australia. Have these devices been used on canids or felids and if so what challenges have been associated with using these devices on them?

      Dingoes typically have large home ranges and are likely to wonder outside of the study area where bases may be deployed. If this is the case, am I correct in assuming that we would have to rely on recapture of animals to recover trackers and data?


      • Hi Mike,

        Sounds like a really interesting project! We haven’t used our devices on canids or felines, but I expect many of challenges will be similar to other devices (deployment, recovery if needed, longevity). For our devices in particular, as we’re not providing housings/attachements, you would need to arrange your own collar or similar – have you done any tracking so far?

        For the second point – if the animals never come back into range, you would need to get close to the animals again. Assuming they still have battery life, the devices could still be looking for a base-station. You could survey the area with a base-station in hand, or leave a number in locations where you expect the animals to be. So, you don’t necessarily need to recovery the devices. However, recovery will get the data, even if the batteries have died.

        Hope this helps,


    7. Hi Guys

      I’m Dario, from Chile. Awesome device, congrats!
      is there any application form for project proposal?

      Thanks in advance!

      • Hi Dario,

        No specific form – just a two page proposal describing the proposed research and the experience of the investigators,


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