Science and Nature

An sight in the sky: Monitoring animal colonies the exhaust of drones in the subantarctic

An eye in the sky: monitoring animal colonies using drones in the subantarctic
Aerial photo of Maiviken in South Georgia. Credit score: BAS/John Dickens

Scientists have performed the first population stare of penguins, seals and albatross the exhaust of unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones on the subantarctic South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands to take hold of the manner factors equivalent to climate change and fishing are impacting the subtle ecosystems.

The evaluate became printed this month in Frontiers in Marine Science and utilized on South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; located in the Southern Ocean roughly 1,300 km to the east of the Falkland Islands. These remoted islands are house to thousands and thousands of penguins, seals and seabirds. Except lately, they would well easiest be steadily monitored by researchers for the length of ground-primarily based surveys, with a focal point on colonies that were more without problems accessible and sufficiently runt to be precisely and safely studied.

Fresh traits in technology have enabled the scientists to habits safe, appropriate, vast-scale population surveys the exhaust of UAVs, without negative the atmosphere or anxious the animal population.

Lead Creator John Dickens, Zoological Arena Assistant at the British Antarctic Ogle said: “Over the direction of a single season, we were in a web site to gape populations of southern elephant seals that have not been studied in 25 years, count nesting and fledgling wandering albatross on islands which would be infrequently monitored, and procure imagery of among the largest penguin colonies on the earth which would maybe present us with the most detailed census that we have of these populations.”

Dr. Tom Hart, Penguinologist at the University of Oxford said: “UAVs are improbable in that they permit us to attain areas safely, although we easiest have a immediate time. If a surf seaside is simply too tough to land on, we can normally easy fly it. We can therefore count worthy more colonies in less time. UAV surveys permit us now not easiest to count, nonetheless give a web site of every nest in that colony. It makes these surveys immensely sensitive to environmental change and more handy into the longer term.”

Dr. Martin Collins, South Georgia science supervisor at the British Antarctic Ogle said: “The usage of UAVs has enabled us to gape worthy more species and colonies than beforehand doubtless, with bigger accuracy, less disturbance to the wildlife and no more likelihood to the scientists.”

The evaluate took device between October 2019 and January 2020 over seven locations on South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The scientists vulnerable a commercially on hand quadcopter which became manually piloted over penguin, seal and seabird colonies, at a fair height so that it would possibly maybe maybe truly well presumably now not location off any disturbance, and placement to exhaust photos every few seconds. These photos were later stitched together to originate a vast orthomosaic, or aerial design of the web site from which a suitable and validated count of the animals will likely be made of the protection of a desk.

South Georgia has the largest population of southern elephant seals on the earth and the researchers utilized 50 UAV flights in five locations for the length of the pupping season. It became the first population census at St Andrews Bay and Hound Bay in 25 years. At St Andrews Bay, the facts from the flights suggests the end of the pupping season took device on 25 October with an total of 6,074 cows recorded across the seaside, with 396 bulls, 5341 suckling pups and 155 weaned pups.

Gargantuan numbers of king penguins are dwelling on the archipelago, with an estimated 250,000 breeding pairs on my own on St Andrews Bay. Four species of penguin, including king, macaroni, Adélie and chinstrap, were surveyed the exhaust of the UAVs, from land at South Georgia, and from a yacht at the South Sandwich Islands. The aerial surveys at St Andrews Bay were a success and a census of your full population is scheduled. The stare also highlighted the obstacles of UAV imagery with macaroni penguins proving now not easy to gape as a consequence of the habitat by which they nest, with worthy of the colony being obscured by vast tussock grasses.

Wandering albatross had been studied broadly on South Georgia and former surveys have proven a decline in their population. The UAV aerial surveys present among the first breeding success data in fresh years for islands in the Bay of Isles. 9 islands, with an total web site of over 3 km2, were surveyed the exhaust of a UAV, with an total of 143 wandering albatross chicks and 48 adults known from the photos.

As a result of the success of the venture, future surveys are already deliberate. This would possibly maybe occasionally also enable scientists to habits vast scale population assessments of the island’s iconic land-primarily based marine predators, and compile and thought of their response to the altering climate and atmosphere in this serious ecosystem in the Southern Ocean.

“Increasing UAV Monitoring of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands’ Iconic Land-Essentially primarily based fully Marine Predators” is printed in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Extra knowledge:
John Dickens et al, Increasing UAV Monitoring of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands’ Iconic Land-Essentially primarily based fully Marine Predators, Frontiers in Marine Science (2021). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.654215

An sight in the sky: Monitoring animal colonies the exhaust of drones in the subantarctic (2021, June 8)
retrieved 8 June 2021

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