Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Watching Shy Albatrosses with a robotic camera

Tim Lynch (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Australia) and colleagues have published in the journal Methods & Statistics in Ecology on using a remote camera to study breeding Shy Albatrosses Thalassarche cauta.

The paper’s summary follows:

“1. Obtaining accurate and representative demographic metrics for animal populations is critical to many aspects of wildlife monitoring and management. However, at remote animal colonies, metrics derived from sequential counts or other continuous monitoring are often subject to logistical, weather and disturbance challenges.  The development of remote camera technologies has assisted monitoring, but limitations in spatial and temporal resolution and sample sizes remain.

2. Here we describe the application of a robotic camera system (Gigapan) which takes a tiled sequence of photographs that are automatically stitched together to form high-resolution panoramas.  We demonstrate the application of the Gigapan using data collected during field-testing at a shy albatross colony on Albatross Island in northwest Tasmania.

3. We took daily panoramas over five days to estimate mean incubation shift-duration, an indirect measure for foraging trip duration, in an existing study area.  Similar numbers of occupied nests could be observed at a distance of ~100m in the Gigapan panoramas compared to ground-based counts (115 and 117 respectively).  Of these, birds on 90% of nests visible in the panoramas could be unambiguously identified as marked or unmarked with a small daub of paint throughout the study period and thus a shift change reliably recorded.  Gigapan-based shift duration was estimated using a novel instantaneous statistical method and were longer than estimates earlier in the egg brooding period, potentially revealing a new pattern in shift duration.

4. This example field application provides proof-of-concept and demonstration that the relatively low cost Gigapan system provides the spatial advantages of satellite or aerial photos with the detail and temporal replication of land-based camera systems.  The Gigapan system can extend or enhance traditional data collection methods, particularly for simultaneous observations, at distance, of the behaviour of many surface nesting colonial seabirds.”

Shy Albatross on Australia's Albatross Island, photograph by Drew Lee  

Reference:

Lynch, T.P.,  Alderman, R. & Hobday, A.J. 2015. A high-resolution panorama camera system for monitoring colony-wide seabird nesting behaviour.  Methods & Statistics in EcologyDOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12339.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 January 2015

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