Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Solar power used to study elephants in Africa

Date:
October 19, 2012
Source:
Stanford University
Summary:
A team of elephant researchers has transformed a remote corner of southern Africa into a high-tech field camp run entirely on sunlight. The seasonal solar-powered research camp gives scientists a rare opportunity to quietly observe, videotape and photograph wild elephants at Mushara waterhole, an isolated oasis in Etosha National Park in Namibia.

Image from video. A team of elephant researchers from Stanford University has transformed a remote corner of southern Africa into a high-tech field camp run entirely on sunlight. The solar-powered research camp, which operated from June through August, gave scientists a rare opportunity to quietly observe, videotape and photograph wild elephants at Mushara waterhole, an isolated oasis in Etosha National Park in Namibia.
Credit: Peter Zielyk

A team of elephant researchers from Stanford University has transformed a remote corner of southern Africa into a high-tech field camp run entirely on sunlight. The seasonal solar-powered research camp gives scientists a rare opportunity to quietly observe, videotape and photograph wild elephants at Mushara waterhole, an isolated oasis in Etosha National Park in Namibia.

Related Articles


"One of the really special aspects of solar energy is that it allows us to be in this incredibly remote area that's closed to tourists and is off the grid," said lead researcher Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell, an instructor at the Stanford School of Medicine and a collaborating scientist at Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. She is also co-founder of Utopia Scientific, a non-profit organization that promotes awareness about science, conservation and public health.

"We get to watch elephant society unfold before us in a very quiet environment -- no generators, no people, no vehicles," she added.

O'Connell-Rodwell has been studying elephant communication at Mushara for 20 years. She was the first scientist to demonstrate that low-frequency calls produced by elephants generate powerful vibrations in the ground -- seismic signals that elephants can feel, and even interpret, via their sensitive trunks and feet.

To identify individual elephants, Stanford undergraduate Patrick Freeman took hundreds of high-resolution photographs using a camera run on solar-powered batteries. His trip to Namibia was supported by a travel grant from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) at Stanford. Each year, VPUE provides additional funding to support Stanford undergraduates working in the camp.

Solar energy was also used to operate a powerful speaker system that delivered low-frequency sounds to elephants gathered at the waterhole. The solar panels provided enough electricity to run a makeshift elephant dung laboratory, operate camera and editing equipment for a documentary video crew, and power two 12-volt refrigerators stocked with fresh meat, dairy products and beer.

Wildlife on parade

Mushara is home to hundreds of wild animals -- including rhinos, giraffes, hyenas and lions -- that parade to and from the watering hole 24/7. To keep inquisitive critters from wandering into camp, which operated from June through August this year, researchers installed a solar-powered electric fence around the perimeter that delivered a harmless shock to any animal that got too close. "It will just scare them away," said researcher Tim Rodwell, a Stanford MD who teaches medicine at the University of California-San Diego. "A lion tried to touch the fence in the far corner. He only tried it once."

Solar energy also enabled the Stanford team to stay connected to the Internet -- allowing O'Connell-Rodwell to send numerous blog posts to the New York Times website directly from Mushara.

The solar panels and the rest of the electrical system were dismantled at the end of the season when the researchers returned home. O'Connell-Rodwell and her team plan to reconstruct the solar-powered camp at Mushara next year and resume their long-term elephant research project.

"Basically, all of our high-tech electronics are run off of a couple of solar panels, a couple of batteries and an inverter," she said. "The sun does the rest."

The Stanford team also received technical support from solar energy companies Soltec and HNU Energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Stanford University. "Solar power used to study elephants in Africa." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121019094531.htm>.
Stanford University. (2012, October 19). Solar power used to study elephants in Africa. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121019094531.htm
Stanford University. "Solar power used to study elephants in Africa." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121019094531.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii was 225 yards from Pahoa Village Road on Wednesday night. The lava is slowing down but still approaching the village. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

AFP (Oct. 29, 2014) At the foot of the rugged Carpathian mountains near the Polish-Ukrainian border, ranchers and scientists are trying to protect the Carpathian pony, known as the Hucul in Polish. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins