CPH Post

Danish satellite attempts to solve the mystery of bird migration

A live feed from the satellite will be transmitted at DTU in Lyngby on June 19 and 20

Two Danish universities collaborate to build a satellite and transmitter to study bird migration (Photo: Flemming Hansen, KU Press)

June 18, 2014

by Nanna G. Vansteelant

A Danish-built satellite will be sent into space on June 19 in the hope of solving some of the mysteries of bird migration. Using a Russian rocket, the satellite will track birds and other animals that migrate over great distances.

Biologists are persistently trying to clear up where the migratory birds go and which patterns control their navigation. A unique collaboration between DTU Space, the Danish technical university space institute, and CMEC KU, the centre for macroecology, evolution and climate at the University of Copenhagen (KU), will send a microsatellite into space and equip birds with a 4.6 gram transmitter.

READ MORE: Researchers investigating Greenlandic seabird deaths

One of the project’s main contributors, Kasper Thorup from KU, sees great potential in the initiative

“The new satellite developed by DTU Space will deliver extremely high precision information – right down to a few metres – on the migratory patterns of small birds," he told KU Press.

"For example, it will reveal how the birds react to obstacles in the landscape, such as mountains and oceans. The light-weight transmitters could be mounted on the common cuckoo for example – it is an ideal species to study, because it is raised by other birds and therefore doesn’t learn migratory patterns from its parents. It relies purely on instinct and its ability to navigate, which is extremely fascinating.”

More than 90 students have worked with civil engineer René Fléron at DTU Space on developing the satellite and transmitter, which puts Denmark at the forefront of this internationally sought-after technology, Fléron told the KU Press.

Listen live!
Anyone interested is invited to visit DTU Space on June 19 and 20 to hear more about the project and listen to the satellite’s transmission as it passes over Denmark. More info is available at  science.ku.dk.

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