Future trends in measuring physiology in free-living animals

H J Williams, J Ryan Shipley, C Rutz, M Wikelski, M Wilkes, L A Hawkes

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Thus far, ecophysiology research has predominantly been conducted within controlled laboratory-based environments, owing to a mismatch between the recording technologies available for physiological monitoring in wild animals and the suite of behaviours and environments they need to withstand, without unduly affecting subjects. While it is possible to record some physiological variables for free-living animals using animal-attached logging devices, including inertial-measurement, heart-rate and temperature loggers, the field is still in its infancy. In this opinion piece, we review the most important future research directions for advancing the field of 'physiologging' in wild animals, including the technological development that we anticipate will be required, and the fiscal and ethical challenges that must be overcome. Non-invasive, multi-sensor miniature devices are ubiquitous in the world of human health and fitness monitoring, creating invaluable opportunities for animal and human physiologging to drive synergistic advances. We argue that by capitalizing on the research efforts and advancements made in the development of human wearables, it will be possible to design the non-invasive loggers needed by ecophysiologists to collect accurate physiological data from free-ranging animals ethically and with an absolute minimum of impact. In turn, findings have the capacity to foster transformative advances in human health monitoring. Thus, we invite biomedical engineers and researchers to collaborate with the animal-tagging community to drive forward the advancements necessary to realize the full potential of both fields.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1831
Early online date28 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jun 2021


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Health management
  • Photoplethysmography
  • Sensing technology
  • Wearable devices


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