Consequently, damage to or theft of technical equipment represents a dramatic financial and scientific loss. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen decided to find out whether the information content and tone of labels attached to the equipment could reduce the incidence of vandalism.
Dummy equipment with threatening message.
© Eleftherios Bitzilekis
In total 60 equipment dummies were distributed in four public parks in Munich. The researchers found that a friendly, personal label reduced the interaction of people with the equipment in comparison with neutral or threatening labels.
From small transmitters used to study migration routes of butterflies to cameras in nest boxes recording breeding activities of great tits, state-of-the-art and expensive technical equipment is essential for today's ecological science. Usually, this equipment has to remain on site to allow for long-term observations or to minimize the impact of repeated installation.
For a team of researchers led by Markus Clarin and Holger Goerlitz from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen it is also important to get as close as possible to their study animals. They investigate the behaviour of bats, which spend their life in the dark, mostly during flight and in an acoustic environment unrecognizable to humans. Therefore the researchers have to rely on a range of special, expensive equipment to study the life of bats.
The idea for this study was thus born out of necessity: what and how much will happen to scientific equipment when it is left unattended in the field while automatically collecting data?
Does a written threat of being reported to the police or a friendly notice that the work is part of a student's thesis including a photo of a cute juvenile squirrel on the label of the equipment have the potential to prevent possible vandalism? Markus Clarin and colleagues distributed 60 equipment dummies in four public parks in Munich for a period of one week.
The dummies consisted of locked toolboxes with a fake dome camera with a flashing red LED light and a car antenna. The researchers attached a label to all of these dummies that either contained a personal, neutral, or a threatening message. “We have been frequently approached by interested park visitors”, says Markus Clarin, first author of the study. “With remorse we told all of them about our fictitious study on small mammals that have been equipped with transmitters and are being photographed by the camera on top of the boxes when passing close by.”
The good news first: most of the dummies were not touched at all, despite being highly visible and unsecured in the middle of the park. Dummies containing a friendly label were interfered with 40% less than those with a neutral or threatening label. The label type, however, did not affect the seriousness of the interference, such as moving, opening, damaging or stealing the dummy. “Apparently, the friendly label effectively reduced anybody’s interference with our equipment, regardless of whether they intended to damage or steal the equipment or just wanted to pick it up for closer inspection”, says Holger Goerlitz, head of the project.
The question remains whether this study is representative, as it has been conducted in one of the richest cities in Germany. To account for this the researchers first asked international colleagues about their experience with fieldwork equipment. Their survey showed that the equipment, such as animal traps or cameras, remained mostly untouched. In case of damage or theft, this resulted in dramatic financial and scientific consequences, and in extreme cases also in complete failure of an experiment. A label in a friendly tone could probably put things right. “Although our friendly labels were not able to influence what exactly was going to happen with the equipment, it nevertheless could minimize the number of incidences”, summarizes Holger Goerlitz.
“We would explicitly like to thank the local authorities, especially the police and the park management”, says Markus Clarin. They had been informed beforehand and remained cooperative, even when in one occasion a false bomb alert has caused some confusion: a visitor took one of the boxes to a beer garden and left it there with the red LED flashing. (SSP/HR)Contact:
Dr. Sabine Spehn | Max-Planck-Institut
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy