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Drones are Helping Scientists Weigh Seals in Antarctica

It’s at all times good to see a optimistic drone story. Today we’ve heard a couple of new approach in which drones are serving to with conservation efforts. A mission in some of the distant components of the world, Antarctica, has proven that aerial images can be utilized to successfully weigh and measure leopard seals.

Keeping observe of predators on the high of the meals chain is a straightforward strategy to carry out a well being test on a complete ecosystem. It’s for that very same motive that Ocean Alliance has used drones to gather whale snot in latest instances. An analogous proof of idea has been underway in Antarctica, with a group from the NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center working with Aerial Imaging Solutions.

The idea is fairly easy. The group has developed software program that may precisely measure the size and weight of leopard seals in the wild, simply from aerial pictures. The method has proved to be correct, too. The scientists have examined the accuracy of the measurements by catching and measuring the identical seals after they had been captured on digital camera from above. They discovered the size measurements to be correct to inside about two %. The weight measurements had been inside 4 %.

Drones save researchers money and time

Sacrificing a small quantity of accuracy is properly value it contemplating the upsides to utilizing drones. Most notable are the effort and time saved. Usually, it could take a crew of 5 over 4 hours to catch a single leopard seal. With a drone, every of the 15 leopard seals required to be measured for the examine had been captured inside 20 minutes.

So that’s much less stress for the researchers and fewer stress for the seals, which didn’t take a lot discover of the drones as long as they stayed above 75 ft.

The paper, printed in the present day in the web journal PLOS ONE, titled ‘An correct and adaptable photogrammetric strategy for estimating the mass and physique situation of pinnipeds utilizing an unmanned aerial system’, goes into rather more element.

 

“We continue to develop technologies to gather the data we need to manage fish and wildlife in a safer, less expensive way,” mentioned Douglas Krause, a analysis scientist in the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD), and lead creator of the paper demonstrating the brand new analysis technique.

“We’re certainly excited because we can get that much more work done, in less time, and at lower costs than ever before.”

“We can get measurements that are just as good, or better, without ever bothering the animals,” mentioned Krause. “Catching a single seal can take hours, but the drone can photograph every seal on a beach in a few minutes.”

“When we think about indicator species in Antarctica, we often think about highly abundant species such as penguins,” mentioned Jefferson Hinke, a co-author and analysis scientist in the AERD. “But top predators, such as leopard seals, are also sensitive to their environment and monitoring them provides additional information on the status of the Antarctic ecosystem.”

Checking out the burden of leopard seals offers scientists a powerful understanding of the well being and abundance of krill. In flip this data will help fishery managers assess how a lot the fishing fleet can catch every season.

“We’re always looking for more efficient ways to collect data that informs decisions on how to manage these important resources,” mentioned George Watters, director of the AERD. “The better we understand the ecosystem, the better we can ensure it’s protected for the long term.”

Malek Murison is a contract author and editor with a ardour for tech tendencies and innovation.
Email Malek
Twitter:@malekmurison



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