Robots and Autonomous Systems Become Sentinels for Wildlife Biologists

January 9th, 2013 | by Michael Keller

It was the night of Oct. 25 in Southern Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains—10:51 and 12 seconds, to be exact. The air was a pleasant 60 degrees, with only a light breeze to rustle the knee-high grasses and evergreen needles.

Suddenly something stirred the grass, and a powerful white flash blasted away the soft light of the gibbous moon overhead. Whatever the movement was that triggered the automatic camera bolted away into the wilderness.

A month later, a team of University of Arizona wildlife biologists retrieved the device, what they call a camera trap. Flipping through the pictures the little autonomous machine had taken over the course of its deployment, they came across the one from that night.

Slinking out from the right side of the frame with gleaming golden eyes reflecting back at them was an adult male jaguar.
The camera captured a member of the only remnant group that still roams between Arizona, New Mexico and Northern Mexico. The device and three others that were positioned across two mountain ranges captured the notoriously elusive animal 10 times. They also recorded the passing of a male ocelot, another wild cat.

Autonomous machines and robots are making inroads into the study of wildlife biology. Advanced sensors that far surpass human senses, quiet operation and an ability to stay on station for extended periods make them exceptionally useful to the work of researchers.

Read more: txchnologist: Robots and Autonomous Systems Become Sentinels for Wildlife Biologists.

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