Imagine a scene that is synonymous with the climate crisis. Your mind might have jumped to the Amazon rainforest or the polar ice caps, where deforestation and rapid melting have long been the rallying point for conservation efforts. But the latest research shows that it is the oceans that are key to mitigating climate change.
In fact, a microbe you’ve probably never heard of, it captures 40% of Earth’s carbon emissions and produces oxygen for two out of every three breaths you take. These microscopic algae are called phytoplankton. It is both a cornerstone of marine ecosystems and a highly effective carbon capture system.
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Phytoplankton depends on a steady supply of nutrients, including phosphorus, iron and nitrogen. Luckily, at the top of the seafood chain lives an incredibly efficient fertilizer machine: the whale.
Drones have given scientists and research teams around the world an affordable but game-changing way of collecting data. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of marine conservation, where research missions have traditionally been limited to well-funded projects and a few privileged projects.
For Dr. Ian Kerr and the team at the Ocean Alliance, camera drones have democratized access to ocean research and revolutionized the way whales collect data. The SnotBot concept turns a DJI drone into a flying petri dish—it’s raw, inspiring, and utterly spectacular. As a result, Kerr’s team has captured the imaginations of countless conservationists.
Sea Shepherd used a DJI drone to track and log illegal fishing activity in the South Indian Ocean. With one eye in the sky, the team captured evidence of illegal drift netting and documented the crew attempting to hide evidence of their movements.
On dry land, drones are supporting conservation efforts from Antarctica to Borneo. Often researchers need to calculate animal populations to understand the challenges they face over time. However, nature rarely creates an orderly queue. Combined with image recognition software, drones provide a quick and cost-effective way to scan large areas, operating on high terrain that would otherwise be difficult to access for teams on the ground.
Whether it’s mapping the location of 300,000 nesting pairs of Adélie penguins or using thermal imaging to detect the heat signatures of polar bear dens, drones are powering environmental projects.
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