How health technology is changing wildlife conservation

How health technology is changing wildlife conservation

Tim Laske crouched in the snow between a bear and its den, uploading her heart rate data to a computer. This data was recorded by an insertable heart monitor one-third the size of an AAA battery.

The 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, learn 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 diligently to gather information about the hibernating 204-pound bear and her cubs.

“Just like a human patient, the bear’s welfare is the first priority,” he said.

Laske shows collected LINQ data to Julie Brewer

He has been studying bear physiology since 1999, publishing dozens of studies, one of which caught the attention of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI).

Rosana Moraes, a principal investigator at the Smithsonian, recalls the exact moment she encountered her study of wild bears’ stress response to drone flights through heart monitoring.

“When I saw this data, I imagined all the possibilities we could do with a tool like this,” she said.

The Rhythm of Life study was born.

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Rosana and other Smithsonian researchers study a maned wolf

Using LINQ insertable cardiac monitors available from Medtronic, Moraes and his colleagues track the heart rates of maned wolves, oryxes and jaguars to better understand stressors and what can be addressed in the environment to create better conditions for wildlife.

With human populations grow rapidly, wildlife find it harder to adapt. Thus, heart rate data, combined with research on their movements and other physiological markers, provides vital information to help animals survive.

And according to Moraes, the data could possibly have an even wider impact. She discovered something unexpected from research: empathy.

Generating this kind of data has huge benefits for human beings because people can connect more with wildlife,” she said. “It’s very beneficial for people to think that the animal’s heart responds to emotions like we do. In the long term, this creates another generation of conservationists.

“The potential is limitless”

When Laske — a Bakken Fellow, who is Medtronic’s highest technical honor — isn’t dressed head-to-toe in wool and den bear snowshoes, he’s tracking for promising technologies and companies to be acquired by Medtronic.

But it’s his work on conservation biology as a professor at the University of Minnesota Visible Heart® Laboratories that combines its expertise and passion for biomedical engineering with wildlife, making a childhood dream come true.

“IIt’s a dream come true to be able to be an engineer and a wildlife biologist,” he said.

Shoot loves being in the field, but as a scientist he’s just as excited to get back to the office and open the data files.

“PThe art of our mission at Medtronic is to be good global citizens. So that means we should help take care of the planet, take care of each other, the environment and the species in it,” Laske said.

Julie Brewer, The president of Medtronic’s Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Services business, which donates the heart monitors, agrees.

“It’s amazing 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.” , she said. “We are excited that Medtronic can play a small role in providing technology that can help improve animal welfare and support future conservation actions for these vulnerable animal populations.”

In some ways, despite launching in 2017, 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 around the world,” Laske said. “The potential for this is truly limitless now.”

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