Mataki, a new tracking technology.

Call for collaborations

A flagship project of the Technology for Nature unit (TfN) is a novel tracking system developed by Dr Robin Freeman at Microsoft Research, named Mataki. Mataki represents cutting-edge technology for tracking animals via GPS, packing sophisticated software into one of the world’s smallest animal tracking devices, at a price that makes the power of GPS tracking available to all.

Mataki is an open-source, lightweight, wirelessly enabled, flexible system that enables GPS tracking and wireless communication in a lightweight package (< 15g incl. battery). We have successfully deployed this system in a number of experiments on bird species, demonstrating the ability of the system to:

– Automatically download recorded data from animal borne devices;
– Transmit data in-flight between tagged animals;
– Record very-high resolution (10Hz) dynamic movement.

Devices can be flexibly programmed as tracking devices or base-stations and can be deployed with a variety of battery sizes, and configured to record data at various rates and (from 10Hz to once per day). For more details on the device and configuration options, please see

We are excited about the potential for Mataki to transform our understanding of where and why animals move in space and time – and we want to share that excitement with a select group of scientists and conservationists around the world. Further, we wish to explore the full range of research questions and scenarios in which our system could successfully operate.

To achieve this the TfN Unit is holding an open call for collaborations that will provide research groups with a set of 20 all-inclusive devices for selected scientific projects. A total of 5 projects will be selected. Proposals displaying a direct conservation benefit will be prioritised. Other aspects that will be considered are scientific merit and novelty. Given the open-source nature of Mataki, computational proposals to extend the system will also be considered.

Proposals should be submitted by March 1st 2013, and selected collaborators will be invited to a workshop in May 2013 where they will receive devices, training and can explore the capabilities of the devices. Post-project, the TfN unit will then host a second workshop where the results of each project will be presented.

Proposals should consist of a two-page research proposal detailing the proposed use of the system, and the applied scientific merit of collecting the tracking information. Proposals should also include a statement to the ability of the applicants to effectively manage a tracking study, and the credentials of the proposal Principal Investigators. All proposals must conform to local ethical regulations and licensing requirements. Proposals should be based upon studies that can be completed (conducted and results collected and analysed) within 12 months.

For details about the system and any queries, please email or get in touch with the members below.

Project Members

Dr. Robin Freeman, CoMPLEX, UCL.

Robin is particularly interested in topics at the interface between behaviour, ecology and computation with a focus on the application of computational techniques to analysing animal behaviour and ecology. In addition to the designing and developing the Mataki system, Robin has wide interests including spatial ecology and migration, animal navigation, biologging, collective decision making and computational and technological systems for ecological and behavioral data collection. He works as a research fellow in CoMPLEX at UCL and as part of the Computational Sciences group at Microsoft Research.

Dr. Lucas Joppa, Microsoft Research

Lucas’ research is geared towards facilitating the conservation of ecological systems. This encompasses research ranging from the study of multi-scale impacts of conservation interventions to the complexities of species interactions – and particularly predicting outcomes for ecological communities faced with an increasingly uncertain environment. Lucas leads the Technology for Nature Unit activities at Microsoft Research, and has a particular interest in innovating distributed data collection systems.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL

Professor Jonathan Baillie is the Conservation Programmes Director for the Zoological Society of London where he is responsible for conservation projects focusing on threatened species and their habitats in more than 50 countries. Professor Baillie conducted his PhD research in the Gulf of Guinea focusing on restricted range island endemic birds. Professor Baillie headed the ZSL Indicators and Assessments Unit which aims to define the status and trends of the world’s species-level biodiversity.  He oversaw the development of a range of global biodiversity indicators including the IUCN Sampled Red List Index, the WWF Living Planet Index and the WCS/ZSL Wildlife Picture Index.  Professor Baillie has also played a leading role in a number of influential documents on the status of the world’s species including the IUCN Global Species Assessment, the Biodiversity chapter of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the WWF Living Planet Report.