Monitoring wildlife from space, bringing advances in conservation

Partial coverage of the earth's surface by a satellite

Credit: ZU_09/GettyImages

Groundbreaking research on vulnerable wildlife in Antarctica, using automated processing algorithms, has driven conservation action while garnering wide public interest.

In a world first, scientists at NERC’s British Antarctic Survey (BAS) developed algorithms to automatically identify wildlife in remote and inaccessible areas from high resolution satellite imagery.

The techniques have been successfully used for a range of animals including whales, penguins, seals and albatrosses, and have delivered far more accurate data than previous survey methods at much lower cost and with minimal disturbance to the animals.

The new methods have been adopted by governments and conservation organisations, and have triggered conservation action as well as increased investment. For example, based on British Antarctic Survey’s work, the status of emperor penguins was upgraded from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Near Threatened’.

The work has gained media coverage in over 40 countries including the BBC documentary ‘Earth from Space’, the BBC story Albatrosses counted from space and the Feb 2020 story ‘Astonishing blue whale numbers at South Georgia’.

Last updated: 11 March 2021

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