"The vultures of Britain's International Centre for Birds of Prey don't know it, but they're dupes. Every day, the giant birds carefully tend to their eggs, rotating them periodically so they incubate just right. But…take a closer look at that nest. Not every egg in there is made of calcium carbonate, and they don't always contain baby birds.
No, at this conservation center, some of those eggs are actually 3-D printed. And they're packed with a bounty that may be more precious to the vultures than an actual embryo: sensors.
Really, it's for their own good. Many vulture species are in serious trouble, and captive breeding programs like the one at ICBP may be the bird's only hope of beating extinction. But fostering those baby vultures in captivity is hard. Incubation may seem simple, but it's a careful balance of temperature, humidity, and movement that conservationists are just beginning to understand. So to help get a better picture of the process, ICBP developed its 3-D printed vulture egg, filled with sensor guts from tech partner Microduino.
Add a name like EggDuino (yes, yes) and it begins to sound a bit, well, daft. But in fact it's emblematic of a massive shift in the way conservationists are going about their work. More and more, sensors in vulture nests or camera traps in rainforests (alternatively: cameras strapped to tree kangaroos to see the canopy as they see it) or drones in the sky are doing the data-gathering scientists have always had to do by hand. And all that's great—as long as the lights and clicks and whirs don't spook those data points away…"
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