Remote sensing flying animals

Science Center Objects

NOROCK scientists and collaborators are working to advance their tools of the trade. Specifically, weather radars, portable radars, thermal imaging cameras, and automated radio tracking are capable mature technologies, able to detect the movement patterns and other behaviors of flying animals at night and at distances far beyond the limits of human vision.

Researchers set up radar equipment at dusk near Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Wisconsin.

Researchers set up radar equipment at dusk near Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Wisconsin.Image courtesy of J. Bartholmai.

Use of automated field instrumentation allows for continuous, reliable, objective data collection. Moreover, automation frees talented and expensive human resources from conducting rote tasks. However, electronics-based technologies are part of fast moving industries with new advances in hardware and software emerging all constantly, leading to new capabilities waiting to be exploited. Consider, for example, the US network of weather radars and its ability to capture the movements of flying animals, not just precipitation. Today, this network automatically gathered and archived data and enables biologists to study the behavioral patterns of hundreds of millions of birds, bats, and insects at minimal cost. Scientists at NOROCK are leaders in harnessing the power of these radars to study flying animals in relation to their conservation and management. The days are already here when a biologist sitting in Delaware can study the habitat use patterns of waterfowl in California without ever leaving their seat.