Justin Strawn

3D Designer, Photographer, Traveler

USGS / NASA Sea Otter Tag, 3D Printed

, , , , ,

I created a design that is currently being used to track sea otter migration by GPS (chip designed by NASA). The design had to account for tension in particular bending points, electronic component dimensions, and size constraints based on anatomy of Otter flipper. 

I delivered the design to Monterey Bay Aquarium, NASA, and USGS. This is an ongoing side project as hardware specs develop, though prototypes have already been implanted on otters successfully.

I used Maya to implement and iterate on the design. If I were starting this project now (in 2019) I would use Houdini, exposing manipulators for iterating on tolerances and letting the final Boolean and smoothing happen automatically while keeping the original more easily editable.

I created a larger size in addition, for extra protection against the elements and more room for hardware. It was questionable weather the otters would tolerate the extra size and weight. Both sizes are currently implanted on otters and are under observation.

“In the future of wildlife tracking, sea otters have their own social network.”

“Whereas we might carry cell phones or tablets, each sea otter has a small, solar-powered tag clipped carefully to one of its flippers. When the sea otters gather to nap at the ocean’s surface, their tags boot up, and check in with one another. Who else did the sea otter interact with today, where, and when?”
Credit: USGS