Research and Application News
High-res satellites help track whale populations
12 February 2014
New high-resolution satellite imagery now allows researchers to spot and count whales from space, greatly expediting population analyses used in conservation efforts, according to a new report.
Traditionally, researchers have counted whales from the bows of ships by searching for blowhole sprays and tail flips, but that method is inherently flawed because it relies on chance encounters and because the field of view is often limited to several miles at a time, even on a clear day.
"If you are very skilled, you can judge how far away it is and work out the species from the size and shape of the blow," said Peter Fretwell, a researcher for the British Antarctic Survey. "But it's very difficult, and you have to look in the right place at the right time."