How healthcare technology is changing wildlife conservation
Tim Laske crouched in the snow between a bear and its den, downloading his heart rate data into a computer. Those data were recorded by a plug-in heart monitor one-third the size of a AAA battery.
He Medtronic Reveal LINQ™ Insertable Cardiac Monitor is helping researchers like Laske, vice president of research and business development for the cardiac ablation solutions business at Medtronic, understand the characteristics of wild and endangered species to further conservation efforts.
For hours on a cold February day, he and a team of wildlife biologists worked carefully to gather information about the hibernating 204-pound bear and its cubs.
“Just like a human patient, the bear’s well-being is the first priority,” he said.
He has been studying bear physiology since 1999, publishing dozens of studies, one of which came to the attention of the Smithsonian’s National Zoological and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI).
Rosana Moraes, a senior fellow at the Smithsonian, remembers the exact moment she came across her study on the stress response of wild bears to drone flights via cardiac monitoring.
“When I saw that data, I visualized all the possibilities that we could do with a tool like that,” he said.
The Rhythm of Life studio was born.
Using LINQ insertable cardiac monitors donated by Medtronic, Moraes and his colleagues are tracking the heart rates of maned wolves, oryxes, and jaguars to gain insight into stressors and what can be addressed in the environment to create better conditions for wildlife.
with hWith rapidly expanding human populations, wildlife has a harder time adapting. So heart rate data, combined with research on their movement and other physiological markers, provides vital information to help animals survive.
and according to Moraes, the data could eventually have an even broader impact. He discovered something unexpected derived from the research: empathy.
“Generating this type of data has a tremendous benefit for humans because people can connect more with wildlife,” he said. “It is very beneficial for people to think about the heart of the animal responding to emotions like we do. In the long term, it is creating another generation of conservationists.”
‘The potential is limitless’
When Laske, a Bakken Fellow who is the highest technical honor at Medtronic, is not clad head-to-toe in fleece and walks snowshoes to bear dens, is exploration of promising technologies and businesses for Medtronic to acquire.
But it is his work with conservation biology as a professor at the University of Minnesota Visible Heart® Laboratories combining their experience and passion for biomedical engineering with wildlife, fulfilling a childhood dream.
“IIt has been a dream come true to be an engineer and a wildlife biologist,” he said.
Shooting He loves being in the field, but as a scientist, he gets excited going back to the office and opening the data files.
“PThe art of our Mission at Medtronic is to be good global citizens. That means we should help take care of the planet, help take care of each other, the environment and the species that inhabit it,” Laske said.
julie Brewer, The president of the Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Services business at Medtronic, which is donating the heart monitors, shares the sentiment.
“It’s amazing to see how scientists and researchers are using our Reveal LINQ ICM technologies to help inform wildlife conservation efforts and improve our understanding of how these remarkable creatures are affected by their ever-changing environment.”he said. “We are delighted that Medtronic can play a small role by providing technology that can help improve animal welfare and support future conservation action for these vulnerable animal populations.”
In some ways, despite its 2017 release, the Smithsonian study is just getting started. This summer, he is reintroducing maned wolves to the wild for further study. And there are plans to include penguins and elephants in future research.
“They have a global reach with researchers from all over the world,” Laske said. “The potential for this is really limitless now.”
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