HVAC controls keep Galapagos tortoise eggs at just the right temperature

HVAC controls keep Galapagos tortoise eggs at just the right temperature

Tortoise hatchling via iStockPhoto.com

Known as ‘gentle giants,' Galapagos giant tortoises are massive herbivores that often reach more than 500 pounds. Before humans arrived on the Galapagos Islands, approximately 250,000 tortoises are thought to have lived there, but today, only an estimated 20,000 survive.

Together, the Galapagos National Park Directorate and Galapagos Conservancy embarked on an ambitious program — the Galapagos Tortoise Restoration Initiative — to restore giant tortoise populations to their historical distribution and numbers. The project is supported by the Roosevelt Wild Life Station.

The temperature of incubation determines the gender of a tortoise, with females developing at slightly higher temperatures. In order to restore these species, tortoise experts and Galapagos National Park rangers can greatly speed up the process by collecting eggs from wild nests, and then bringing them into captivity for incubation and rearing until they are of sufficient size to better survive in the wild at approximately five years old.

By controlling the number of eggs incubated at the two temperatures, more female than male tortoises can be produced, which will eventually increase reproduction in the wild once these tortoises reach maturity. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that tortoise eggs are incubated at the designated temperatures.

Redesigning incubation systems

Using Schneider Electric technology, facility automation specialist Automated Control Logic designed a new heat delivery system to precisely control the temperature in the tortoise incubators so that tortoise eggs experienced stable development and to produce a higher percentage of females than males, which will increase reproduction in the wild.

Due to Automated Control Logic’s successful installation of the new heating systems, it is expected that 5,000 - 10,000 hatchling tortoises will be hatched from these incubators over the next two decades. This growth will effectively increase the current global population of Galapagos giant tortoises by 25 percent in just one generation.

Before enlisting the help of Automated Control Logic, the incubator heat delivery system used in the Galapagos National Park’s Tortoise Centers was a single hair dryer in each incubator, controlled by a thermostat. While successfully used for well over a decade, this is an imprecise way to control the temperature of the incubators, and so the heat delivery system made it difficult to assure the sex of the tortoise hatchlings. Equipment breakdowns could also cause unhealthy temperature fluctuations.

The Galapagos Tortoise Restoration Initiative, through SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY, reached out to Automated Control Logic to redesign its incubator heat delivery system using the latest Schneider Electric technology in order to deliver on the mission of the restoration project successfully.

Automated Control Logic, a certified EcoXpert BMS partner, was selected for its deep expertise in heating systems and controls, as well as its longstanding partnership with Schneider Electric. EcoXpert partners are trained and certified on Schneider Electric’s IoT-enabled EcoStruxure architecture and platform. The program’s mission is to connect expertise, ignite growth and enable success for its EcoXpert partner companies.

“The egg incubation stage is a short but critical “pinch point” in the very long life cycles of giant tortoises," said Dr. James Gibbs, director of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station and co-director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative. "Automated Control Logic has developed a clever, robust and efficient new system based around Schneider Electric technology that ensures successful egg hatching. The systems are functioning smoothly in the Galapagos situation which includes many daily power surges, frequent outages and limited opportunity to find replacement parts.”

Next-generation heating systems and controls

Using Schneider Electric technology, Automated Control Logic designed a new heat delivery system to precisely control the temperature in the tortoise incubators so that the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservancy personnel could adjust it to ensure that eggs experienced stable development and to produce a higher percentage of females than males.

As part of the final designs, Automated Control Logic used Schneider Electric's i2-867 controllers that were custom programmed to precisely regulate the incubation temperature, allowing for the most exact incubation controls. The heating system also included backup heat sources in case of outages, ensuring that the tortoise eggs were protected at all times.

"We are incredibly proud of this conservation work. Through increasing the hatching success and female population of Galapagos giant tortoises, we are helping to secure the future of these iconic species and preserving the unique biodiversity of the islands," said Preston Bruenn, founder and president of Automated Control Logic, Roosevelt Wild Life Station Honorary Advisory Council Member and SUNY ESF alumnus.


Topics: Automation and Controls, Educational Buildings, Energy Audit / Energy Management, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation


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