Marsh Award for Innovative Ornithology

2013 - Dr Christian Rutz

Dr Christian Rutz, of the University of St Andrews, has been awarded for undertaking pioneering work on miniature, bird-borne tracking devices that can provide intimate glimpses into the hidden lives of birds.

The first notable breakthrough was the development, and successful deployment, of tiny bird-mounted video cameras, to obtain a bird’s-eye view of the world, and gather detailed data on foraging behaviour, habitat use, social interactions and conservation threats (Science 2007 318: 765). More recently, Christian’s group deployed highly innovative miniature ‘proximity loggers’ on birds that can detect when individuals meet each other, enabling the real-time mapping of social network dynamics in wild populations (Current Biology 2012 22: R669-671). Both papers reported world firsts, pushing the frontiers of what is possible in terms of miniaturisation and sophistication of animal-attached tags. Christian combines technological innovation with cutting-edge research.

Apart from leading to high profile publications, the work by Christian and his research group has had considerable media impact, providing a good example of how science can be communicated effectively to broad audiences. Despite significant potential for commercial exploitation, Christian has made his engineering advances and expertise freely available to others, to facilitate rapid uptake of these emerging technologies by the ornithological research community.

Christian Rutz (left) with former PhD student, Lucas Bluff (right) attaching a tag to a wild crow


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