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May 16, 2017

Counting large birds on remote islands from space...

Photo: Reuters 
Albatross census from space
Marina Koren, writing in The Atlantic, has described how the British Antarctic Survey and the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand are scouring the landscape of distant islands from the comfort of office desks and count albatross populations, one-by-one, to create a census from space.   Pictures taken by a high-resolution camera on a satellite orbiting Earth produce hundreds of tiny pixelated white dots against a dark background on a computer.   The survey is the first time that satellites have been used to count individual birds from space.   So far, two targeted threatened species have been observed: the Wandering Albatross and the Northern Royal Albatross on the Chatham Islands, to the east of New Zealand.   Instead of long-term, expensive travel in labour-intensive, sometimes hazardous conditions, the space census requires much less effort and doesn't risk disturbing the birds.   Observers compared their counts from space to available ground tallies and found similar numbers.   Much more information can be had in Marina Koren's report in the May 11th edition of The Atlantic. 

Photo: J.J. Harrison
Wandering Albatross 

Photo: Mark Fraser
Northern Royal Albatross
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