Jeff Parsons – Monday 25 Mar 2019 2:15 pm
Pigeons have become the latest recruits in helping researchers gather data on climate change.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed a tiny set of sensors resembling a small backpack that can be strapped onto the back of homing pigeons. These little sensors help researchers collect data on urban microclimates, including fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and winds that can have major effects on living in major cities.
The pigeons themselves come from local volunteers that raise them and who agree to work with the scientists. Pigeons are helping researchers gather data on climate change.
Known for their abilities to return to their nest, homing pigeons have been used as far back as Ghengis Khan to carry messages across long distances. Using homing pigeons means that the researchers are sure to get their instruments back and can download the information before sending the birds on their way to collect more data.
The design of the backpack conceived to keep the safety and comfort of the birds in mind. Each weighs less than 3% of the pigeon’s body weight, which is the standard for bird tracking devices. Sensors in the backpacks help researchers collect data on urban microclimates (University of Birmingham/Cover Images)
‘If [the pigeon owners] are not happy with any aspect of putting the sensors on their back, then they don’t have to fly their birds,’ explains Rick Thomas, the research fellow who leads the study. The welfare of the birds is utterly paramount and, they’re not likely to cause the same issues as drones, explained Thomas.
The pigeons all come from local volunteer groups.
Drones are not allowed to fly freely in any area, particularly after the trouble a drone caused at Gatwick airport in December. What’s more, drone technology would not be as cost effective as what’s possible with the pigeons.
Thus far, the group’s band of pigeons have logged over 620 miles with their backpacks over the course of 41 flights. Impressive!
Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/03/25/scientists-recruited-pigeons-help-stop-climate-change-9008203
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