Nature, Outdoors, Science, Tech

Satellites, Cows and Penguin Poop

English: King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus...

English: King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus patagonicus), West Falkland. Français : Un Manchot royal. Photo prise sur l’île de Falkland occidentale (ou Grande Malouine), dans les Malouines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people worry about all the satellites up there pointing cameras down here but for scientists as well as governments they can be invaluable – particularly if you need to p p p pick up a penguin, or 9,000.

In recent years wildlife researchers have used satellite and aerial imagery to watch animal movements and behaviour.  Dr Sabine Begall, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany who had been studying magnetic sensing in animals, initially mole rats, decided to see if larger animals might have the same.  Dr Begall and colleagues used Google Earth to examine how cows stand in fields across the world (to rule out weather effects) and found that the majority faced north or south only, the effect was also seen in deer in the Czech Republic.

In 2009 a group monitoring how penguins were coping with changing environmental conditions wanted to confirm the location of breeding grounds.  Using satellite images, which didn’t have sufficient resolution to see individual birds, they were able to identify colonies due to the staining of the ground by guano – the penguins stay at the colony for around eight months.  The work confirmed the location of 26 colonies and found 10 more.

Then in December last year a team of Belgian and Swiss explorers visited one of these colonies, finding around 9,000 birds.  The article at The Atlantic has the photos.

Science, Tech

Aerial Archeology

Argentinan Satellite SAC-A is deployed from Sp...

Argentinan Satellite SAC-A is deployed from Space Shuttle STS-88 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever since the military first looked at an early aircraft and thought “I wonder if we can use that to see what they’re up to” technology has steadily improved aerial surveillance.  From film cameras in high-altitude Spitfires to top-secret satellites that, of course, aren’t looking at anything and don’t even exist, honestly, that mini-space shuttle was just for research.

Recently though aerial and satellite photography have become accessible to anyone with internet access and as well as giving people the opportunity to see their house from above, or just lazily spending an afternoon following old defunct railway lines this massive resource is being used to locate topographical features that aren’t immediately obvious from the ground.

Archeologists have known for some time that buried structures can leave traces on the surface such as lines in grass or subtle dips in the ground but now both professional and amateur researchers are finding intriguing structures across the world.

One such discovery was recently made by Angela Micol, a satellite archaeology researcher from North Carolina who has found two sites in Egypt that appear to feature previously undiscovered pyramids.

So the satellites and planes may be occasionally photographing us now but they can help us to find our past.

See photos and article at Gizmodo UK.