News: News Archives
Robot Seeking Rara Avis
While the debate simmers on whether the ivory-billed woodpecker is or is not extinct, the search is taking a new and novel turn. Researchers at an Annual Meeting news briefing described new efforts backed by the National Science Foundation to station a highly discerning robot deep in the woods of Arkansas to search for evidence that the bird is still with us.
The device, installed in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, "consists of two high-resolution video cameras connected to a hard disk, all installed in a weatherproof case," writes BBC science and technology reporter Jonathan Fildes. "The digital cameras point towards the sky, continuously capturing two-megapixel images....Advanced algorithms analyse each frame, discarding the images it believes does not contain an image of a bird and saving those that it thinks does." (See Fildes' full account.)
The results: "The system has been running for three months and so far has captured a flock of geese and an blue heron," writes Julie Steenhuysen. In her story for Reuters, University of California Berkeley Professor Ken Goldberg says the search effort is still being refined. But, he says, the project is emblematic of ways that robots can help advance science.
In 2005, the journal Science reported at least eight independent sightings of a bird that appears to be an ivory-billed woodpecker, a species widely thought to be extinct for more than a half-century. A video clip of one bird, though blurry, showed key features, including the size and markings, indicating to some experts that it was indeed the missing bird.
18 February 2007