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Animals can help researchers as tools

Animals can help researchers as tools

If weather data is needed, satellites can be good at high spatial resolution, high temporal frequency, or a wide range of wavelengths, but never at the same time. Surface-mounted meters can collect a lot of data, but they are static and unevenly distributed across the surface of our planet. He stated that animals can serve as a bridge between these two systems Earth Observatory.

For decades, tens of thousands of wild animals have worn miniature measuring devices, from storks to reindeer to elephants and elephant seals, with the help of which we have collected a lot of useful data about the animal's habitat. Among these places there were many that were not accessible by satellite and were too rugged or too remote to send human observers to.

The top half of the image shows satellite measurement data, and the bottom shows data from sensors worn by elephants. The area is exactly the same, and the measurements were made at the same time.

Source: Earth Observatory

Animals are an integral part of our planet, and as more and more researchers are realizing, they can take on an increasingly large role in measurements. Recently, this issue has also been addressed from a scientific point of view Toured by a research groupand study how this animal data can become part of the research.

For example, let's look at satellite temperature data near a river in Kruger National Park and compare it to temperature data collected by sensor-equipped elephants from the same location at the same time. The satellite flies over the affected area every 16 days, but it cannot make measurements in cloudy weather, for example. Elephants collected data several times, but they traveled infrequently and over a large area.

The area the elephants move to, the little square, is what you can see in the temperature map above.

Source: Earth Observatory

However, animals are not just four-legged measuring instruments, but they also show how an organism relates to its environment, and how the environment affects animal behavior. During 2019 research, for example, they analyzed when elephants go into the water, and filtered data on how they protect themselves from heat stress. With regard to climate change, it is particularly important to detect behavioral changes that follow these environmental impacts.

Animal movement also provides information that cannot be measured by satellites. Although with the help of our space instruments we can know the condition of the vegetation and how green it is, we can no longer know when its seeds begin to mature. If we put sensors on the animals that eat these seeds, data can be collected on them as well, and a lot of environmental information can be obtained that way.

At the same time, it would not be ethical to use animals to make measurements solely for our own interests. Fortunately, in most cases, the “by-product” of data collected for nature conservation purposes is information that can be used for other purposes, so everyone can win in this case. The real challenge is who they are amazing Data can be standardized so that each researcher can then use what he needs from it. Experts are confident that soon everything will fall into place in this system.

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