Dr Gal Ribak is currently building a new research system in the north-east area of the Zoological Garden, for studying the biomechanics and energetic cost of swimming in water birds.

The system will comprise two large pools (3 and 12 cubic meters; in the meantime only the larger one has been built and is seen in the photographs), in which water birds will dive and their movements below water will be filmed. The large pool is a canal, one meter deep and 12 meters long, enabling shallow, horizontal underwater swimming conditions, and thus simulates the conditions of swimming along the lake bed in search of food. The shape of the pool directs the birds to swim in a straight line, at a constant depth and velocity, in front of very high-speed video cameras, enabling an exact analysis of the swimmer's movements during stereotypic swimming. The smaller pool, which will arrive soon, is practically a vertical container in which the birds can dive down to two meters depth, enabling the researcher to study the diving phase of the birds from the surface to the bottom. In the first stage the system will be used to analyze the swimming movements of birds – both below and above the water's surface. In the future it will also be used to measure their metabolic rate during diving. From analysis of the birds' underwater feet movements, Dr Ribak's lab will investigate the swimming efficiency of various water birds (e.g., comparing dabbling ducks and diving ducks, grebes, and cormorants, etc.), and will develop models for estimating the energetic cost of swimming, according to swimming speed and diving depth. Following completion of the construction, the first to use the system will be seven ferruginous ducks )Aythya nyroca(that were especially brought over from a zoo in Germany. The ducks have already "made Aliyah", and in the meantime are participating in the reproductive effort of ferruginous ducks in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, in the hope of reintroducing this species back into the Israeli nature. In the past, ferruginous ducks nested in the Hula Valley and along the coastal plain, but today they are an endangered species here. The expectation is that in addition to acquiring basic knowledge, the research will also provide information on the ducks' needs in nature and raise awareness of the loss of habitat and of nesting areas of these ducks specifically, and of other water birds as well.

Another new research system has been built in the south-west area of the Zoological Garden. The system was designed for a new joint research by Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor's laboratory and researchers from Banaras Hindu University, sponsored by the ISF and The University Grants Commission, India (UGC). The research will study the influence of using artificial night lights on animals (light pollution), and will examine the consequences of chronic exposure to light pollution in different wavelengths on diurnal and nocturnal mammals (golden spiny mice and Cairo spiny mice) and amphibians (eastern spadefoot). It will be conducted over three years, and examine the effect of exposure to artificial light on the health, reproduction success, and longevity of the investigated species. The aim is to formulate recommendations for minimizing the harm caused to the animals by the use of artificial night-lights.

The big research pool,  photo: Gal Ribak

Different kinds of lights,  photo: Yael Ballon