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High-Flying Frigatebirds Collect Data from the Top of the Sky

December 22, 2023

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Researchers mistakenly found a brand-new method of keeping an eye on the Earth’s planetary border layer: high-flying excellent frigatebirds

By Chelsea Harvey & & E&E News

CLIMATEWIRE| Excellent frigatebirds are amongst nature’s most uncomplicated fliers, consistently skyrocketing more than a mile in the air and often remaining up for weeks at a time.

Now researchers have a brand-new factor to be impressed with their abilities. Scientists have actually just recently found– by opportunity– that excellent frigatebirds can gather useful environment information as they pass through the high skies.

They discovered that frigatebirds fly high enough to skim the edge of the planetary limit layer, a low layer of the environment that connects with the surface area of the Earth to affect clouds, winds and other weather-related elements. They can gather all sort of beneficial climatic measurements when they’re equipped with unique sensing units.

“I would call it serendipity,” stated NASA researcher Ian Brosnan, who provided the findings recently at the yearly fall conference of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s biggest Earth and area science society.

The pleased mishap started about 2 years ago with a NASA job referred to as the “Internet of Animals,” an effort focused on establishing satellite-based animal tracking systems to assist with preservation and eco-friendly research study.

Brosnan, who was dealing with the task, worked with numerous scientists to join his group. Among them– NASA ecologist Morgan Gilmour– had actually formerly dealt with a task including frigatebirds.

That effort, a cooperation amongst the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy and other organizations, was focused on examining the efficiency of a marine secured location around Palmyra Atoll, part of a chain of Pacific islands southwest of Hawaii. The scientists connected unique sensing units to the birds to monitor their motions around the location, a regular kind of environmental research study.

When Gilmour revealed him the frigatebird information, Brosnan all of a sudden had a concept.

“Immediately I resembled, ‘I’ll wager these birds are tasting the planetary limit layer,'” he stated.

In the past, researchers have actually utilized ground-based instruments, airplanes or satellites to determine the height of the planetary limit layer. The scientists compared a few of these previous measurements with the bird sensing units and discovered they were a close match– the birds gathered precise information.

These type of measurements might be a helpful supplement to conventional tasting approaches, Brosnan thought. Frigatebirds reside in remote parts of the world, like Palmyra, where measurements are frequently hard to gather by ways aside from satellites. They likewise invest extended periods of time in the air, even during the night, when some remote noticing systems can’t operate without sunshine.

Brosnan is now looking for other researchers who might utilize the information– that’s one of the factors he brought his discussion to the AGU conference. The findings up until now are simply initial measurements,

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