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Remote Sensing of Birds and Animals

Remote Sensing AG was established with the full name "Development of a satellite-based, Antarctic-wide, remote sensing approach to monitor bird and animal populations” at the SCAR XXXII Meeting in Portland 2012. 

A working meeting of the Action group was held during the XIth SCAR Biology Symposium on 19 July 2013 in Barcelona and followed by a meeting and symposium at the SCAR XXXIII Meeting in Auckland 25 August 2014.

Important points discussed included relevant databases for collecting penguin (and other seabirds and seals) abundance data, collected with remote sensing methods, rules for using drones (UAV) over penguin colonies and continued discussions about new satellite technologies. 

The SCAR Action Group on Remote Sensing was established at the SCAR XXXII Meeting in Portland 2012 with the full name "Development of a satellite-based, Antarctic-wide, remote sensing approach to monitor bird and animal populations".

The Remote Sensing AG intends to focus on future developments in a number of fields:

  • Recent technology in geospatial science over the last decade have motivated major advances in our understanding of the Antarctic continent and surrounding oceans. These developments have (and will) included the use of new satellite remote sensing platforms (e.g. WorldView and Landsat series of satellites) and methods to obtain geospatial information, such as, automatic/semi-automatic extraction of information from remote sensing images, new mapping techniques for ice sheet properties (roughness, thickness and velocity) usage of remotely sensed data for Antarctic glaciological and mass balance studies and ice sheet flow and geodynamics over short temporal scales.
  • Remote sensing of the marine cryosphere (including sea ice and its snow cover) and its interactions with ocean and atmosphere and generation of digital elevation models (DEMs) of Antarctic regions.
  • Rapid developments in monitoring bird and seal populations and habitats with remote sensing applications used unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) including disturbance capability and environmental impacts of UAVs on bird and seal populations.
  • The use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) technology to investigate small-scale characteristics and changes. Much of this research is cross-disciplinary in its nature and this has led to noteworthy advances across a range of Antarctic scientific disciplines.

The AG will focus in the future on such multi-disciplinary research and includes new and emerging research frontiers in Antarctic science. The AG will merge snow and ice studies with climate research, ice-ocean interaction, and animal monitoring via remote sensing. The next meeting will be during SCAR Biology Symposium in Belgium (2017) and the SCAR/IASC Conference in Davos (Switzerland) 2018. 

Terms of Reference

The SCAR Action Group on Remote Sensing has been established with the full name "Development of a satellite-based, Antarctic-wide, remote sensing approach to monitor bird and animal populations", initially for three years, with the aim to address the topic of "Animal monitoring via remote sensing". A number of publications on that topic, several published in 2012, indicate that the importance of satellite-based remote sensing for monitoring purposes is currently growing. In these various publications, different methodological approaches have been proved and discussed.

As a first step, the following revised Terms of Reference are proposed:

  1. Goals: Defining what are the goals/objectives of the proposed monitoring programme. What are the questions we want the programme to answer? What are the key parameters we need to define in order to answer these questions? What are the temporal and spatial ranges and scales we have to consider to get the necessary information?
  2. Present state of species: Formulating the present state of available knowledge for individual species, specifically on the distribution, population and on-going monitoring programmes.
  3. Gaps: What are the important gaps? What do we need to understand better? What are the most important research demands we should work on? How can we work on them?
  4. Methodology/technology: Which methodologies and technologies are available to fill the gaps? What is the role of different remote sensing techniques in this setting? Which new approaches look promising regarding result quality and research effort? Compiling the methodical state of the scientific knowledge in terms of a satellite-based, remote sensing approach. Keeping an eye on technological advances.
  5. Monitoring strategy: Designing a monitoring strategy that optimizes the relationship between outcome and long-term monitoring effort. Maximizing the resources of the participants.
  6. Input data access: Organizing data access. Who has access to which data? Which of these could be shared? Consulting data providers.
  7. Output data access: Designing an easy and open access for the scientific community to the monitoring results. What are the outcome parameters to be produced and how can they be stored, exchanged and published? Solving questions on standards, formats, media and metadata for the database/geo-database.