Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Most of my degus have given birth! Which means that things are busy in the field and I have been spending lots of time implanting cortisol pellets and collecting baseline blood samples. After I finish implanting my cortisol pellets, I will need to put radiocollars on my female degus so I can determine social group composition. While you can usually tell which degus are in which social group by seeing what burrow they're trapped at everyday, this isn't totally reliable and the best way to determine social group composition is to see who spends the night with each other in the same burrow.

The radiocollars I have been using have good signal strength and long-lasting batteries, but the collar itself irritates the degu's necks and I usually have to remove the radiocollar after a few days. So, in order to protect my degus necks, I have been remodeling some of my radiocollars. My talented friend Cecilia figured out how to do this, here's the step-by-step process:

Original radiocollar- the thin wire digs into the degu's neck, and the edges from the crimp can cut the skin.
To improve the radiocollars, we decided to replace the wires with wide, brass bands. So, for the first step, we cut strips from a sheet of brass.
Next, we marked where we wanted to put the holes. We first used a small hammer and chisel to start the holes and then an electric drill to finish.

We then smoothed the edges of the holes with a sander attachment.
Next, we soldered a small screw to the end of the brass band and then sanded down the soldered area.
We had to remove part of the transmitter to reduce weight and create a better fit. The original transmitter is on the left and the altered transmitter is on the right.
Using superglue and Poxilina (a type of cement-putty), we attached the brass band to the transmitter.

And finally, we put heat-shrink-tubing over the transmitter and lower parts of the band.

This actually took quite a bit of time, but I always enjoy the opportunity to make and alter my research equipment. You never know what sort of new skills you'll learn when you go to graduate school....

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