Helping Wildlife Conservation, One Processor at a Time

Climate change is altering life for every species on the planet, changing their habitats and patterns of behavior. To better understand how various species are attempting to adapt to climate change, biologists and conservationists need data. But this data is often difficult to collect, as it requires tracking wildlife in remote areas.

By leveraging the power of technology, biodiversity monitoring and assessment can be simplified. The NEXT blog today features the story of how a Microsoft Research employee is using technology to improve our understanding of demographic and behavior patterns of wildlife such as wolverines in high-elevation areas of the Pacific Northwest.

In the past, researchers had developed a way to attract animals to remote sensing cameras for monitoring purposes, using liquid scent. But these remote habitats, already difficult to reach, became nearly impossible to access when winter arrived, making the opportunity to rebate and capture additional information during critical winter months nearly impossible. To study this, Mike Sinclair, a Microsoft principal researcher, teamed up with Woodland Park Zoo and Idaho Fish and Game to support conservation research aimed at rare and elusive wildlife species.

The team created a low power processor, powered by lithium ion batteries, that enables a slow and controlled rebaiting process without the need for field biologists to revisit remote stations on a nearly constant basis.  This represents a significant change in how we can gain much better insight into animal behavior.

Mike’s processor – developed with the help of a group of high school STEM students he mentors – allows biologists to release small amounts of scent over time, remotely, to capture data all winter long. Through the use of remote cameras – which will take 40,000 images during the study – scientists can gather valuable data about species demography and behavior, such as reproduction timing and success, as well as den site behavior.

The insights we stand to gain from technology will help us better understand the impact climate change is having on habitats and develop strategies to conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity. To learn more about our work on applying research and technology to conservation efforts, visit Microsoft Research.


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