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Thermal imaging to assess individual physiological state in wild animals

Descrizione del progetto

Un nuovo modo di valutare lo stato fisiologico degli animali selvatici

Lo studio della fitness, ovvero la capacità di sopravvivere e riprodursi, è fondamentale per la biologia evolutiva e l’ecologia della conservazione. L’imaging termico della temperatura della superficie corporea è stato proposto come un mezzo non invasivo per esaminare in che modo i processi fisiologici negli animali selvatici sono regolati dinamicamente per massimizzare la fitness in risposta alle variazioni ambientali. L’obiettivo del progetto THERMALIMAGING STATE, finanziato dall’UE, è quello di sviluppare l’imaging termico come nuovo potente strumento per far progredire la nostra comprensione dei legami tra stato individuale e fitness in ambienti naturali. Questa inedita tecnica sarà convalidata negli Stati Uniti e poi sperimentata sul campo nell’UE, guidata dalla competenza di ecofisiologi riconosciuti a livello internazionale presso l’Università di Groningen e il Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.


Understanding variation in ability to survive and pass on genes (fitness) is central to evolutionary biology and conservation ecology. Fitness differences are largely explained by physiological state, as physiological processes are dynamically adjusted to maximise fitness in response to environmental variation. However, assessing physiological state in wild animals is usually invasive, requiring trapping and handling. As well as raising ethical concerns, such techniques interrupt natural behaviour, can cause bias toward trappable individuals, and may alter subsequent performance. Welfare limits on repeated invasive sampling also restrict tracking of responses over time. Previously, I provided proof of concept for an innovative alternative approach to overcome these issues – non-invasive thermal imaging of body surface temperature. I showed body surface temperature reflects two physiological processes highly relevant to fitness – acute stress and maintenance of energy reserves. But, the mechanisms underlying these relationships remain unclear, calling for rigorous experimental exploration to build the foundations needed for this method to be applied in research and conservation. Hence, the aim of this proposal is to develop thermal imaging as a powerful new tool to advance understanding of the links between individual state and fitness in natural environments. An initial visit to the world leading wild-vertebrate stress lab (Tufts University, US) will be used to perform detailed physiological validations in captivity. Methods established in the US will then be field-trialled in the EU, guided by the expertise of internationally recognised ecophysiologists at the University of Groningen and Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, ensuring in-depth synthesis of results. Combined, this work will place me at the forefront of the exciting, transformative use of thermal imaging as a novel tool for studying how wild animals cope with changing environments.

Meccanismo di finanziamento

MSCA-IF-GF - Global Fellowships


Contribution nette de l'UE
€ 253 052,16
Broerstraat 5
9712CP Groningen
Paesi Bassi

Mostra sulla mappa

Noord-Nederland Groningen Overig Groningen
Tipo di attività
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Altri finanziamenti
€ 0,00

Partner (1)