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Satellite and whales

Satellite images are a very promising field to study wildlife and changes of the environment.

A recent article published in PloS One speaks about a new detection method using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images to detect stranded whales.

They believe a new technique for analyzing satellite images could revolutionize how stranded whales are detected in remote places.

In the study they we were using 50cm resolution images, but the satellites now can see 30cm. In the future, they should be able to analyse the pictures automatically, rather than manually.

The causes of marine mammal stranding are poorly understood, and therefore, information gathered helps understand how these events may be influenced by overall health, diet, environmental pollution, regional oceanography, social structures and climate change," said study co-author and whale biologist Jennifer Jackson at British Antarctic Survey.

"As this new technology develops, we hope it will become a useful tool for obtaining real-time information. This will allow local authorities to intervene earlier and possibly help with conservation efforts," Jackson added.

Open-access satellite remote sensing data can be downloaded from a large range of sources, including EarthExplorer (United States Geological Survey) and the Copernicus Open Access Hub (European Space Agency). Data from commercial providers is available through their respective websites. Download can be manual (choosing and downloading each scene by hand) or automated using scripts, bulk downloaders or programmed software.

In contrast to ecosystem and habitat mapping for a particular species or threat detection, SRS data are also sometimes used to detect individual species, and a growing number of cases studies are determining whether it is possible to count individual animals or map homogenous stands or species richness (for plants and phytoplankton) from space.

For instance, Fretwell et al. (2014) were able to detect Southern Right Whales (ca. 16 m in length) in Golfo Nuevo Bay using multispectral imagery. SRS data with very high spatial resolution (typically < 1 m) is necessary to be able to distinguish individuals with a length of at least 1-2 m from their background (Figure 5.5; He et al. 2015). Despite the growing availability of imagery with very high spatial resolution, most of these data are only available from commercial providers (which means costs can be considerable), and data coverage may be limited or only available for small footprints.

StackOverflow, GeoNet and OSGeo are good starting points for finding support and information about satellite remote sensing imagery processing and geospatial analysis. Groups connecting scientists and practitioners who apply satellite remote sensing in ecological and conservation contexts include the Remote Sensing Conservation Network (CRSnet) and CEOS Biodiversity.

Satellite could also help against illegal fishing :

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