Icarus Project – What is the relationship between animals and natural disasters


The study named Project Icarus intends to use animals as a system of early warning for the occurrence of earthquakes among other natural events. It uses a concept called “ecology movement”. This project has volunteers from around the world, funds of $ 13 million and a satellite, which will be launched in October this year, 2017.

Martin Wikelski is an expert on migration and also responsible for the Icarus Project, a partnership between the Max Planck Institute, Germany’s Aerospace Center and the Russian Federation Space Agency, which intends to use the concept of the “movement of ecology” to predict Natural disasters such as earthquakes, among others.

Basically, the main idea is to monitor the movement patterns of the animals and relate them to the natural events, thus establishing a possible relationship between them. With all the data collected, the scientists involved in the project intend to design a computer model that allows to anticipate the occurrence of a natural disaster based on the dynamics of animal movements that are being monitored for this purpose.

For this to be possible, the scale of animals to be monitored is quite large, so the Icarus Project is “Open Source”, that is, carried out only with volunteers who register online to assist in the study. So far, there are dozens of mammals, birds, fish and insects already marked and equipped with micro emitters. With the help of these volunteers, Wikelski hopes to reach thousands of animals by the end of next year.

“It’s more or less like a new global SMS system, where animals function as autonomous units”, Wikelski told Bloomberg about the Icarus Project, an acronym for the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS). “People call it the Internet from the wings”.

This project was born after Wikelski managed to track the migration of Indonesian elephants to safe terrain before a tsunami struck the country in 2004 and in 2012 and 2014 monitored the movements of goats and sheep in the vicinity of Etna, anticipating Volcanic eruptions that occurred.

The German and Russian space agencies, responsible for launching the satellite that will collect all the information generated (due to happen in October), have promised Wikelski and his team of 50 university students from 37 countries a total of $ 13 million to Develop and launch the satellite.

“The possibilities for navigation for humans are immense”, said Antoine Dujon, a doctoral student at Deakin University in Australia, who studies how sea turtles use force of gravity as a map to return to their birthplace. “Animals can carry diseases. What we want to know is where, because if we do, we can create protected areas”. Navinder Singh, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said that the Icarus Project has the potential to help farm managers use data that has so far, no definite purpose.

The problem with this project is that this technology can be used to track humans. “This is a problem that can arise”, acknowledges Wikelski, who further states in this regard that he keeps his code private and that he carefully monitors where and when this network is used.