Today’s Solutions: January 25, 2022

If thermal cameras are capable of spotting distant starts, then they must be capable of finding animals here on Earth, right? Such is the logic of researchers from Liverpool John Moores University who are testing the thermal infrared technology that astrophysicists use to discover stars in order to spot and count endangered Bornean orangutans, a critically endangered species that hides in the forest of Borneo. To make this happen, the university installed a thermal camera on a drone and flew it over a half square mile of forest land where the orangutan rehabilitation center is. Over the course of 28 short flights, the drone was able to find 41 orangutans. In comparison, the field team on the ground could only find 28. The researchers have coined a new name for their field that brings together ecologists and astronomers: astroecology. They’ve developed a four-person astroecology group that’s been around three years now. Their goal? “By applying methods and technology from astrophysics, engineering, and computer science, we aim to help solve major global challenges such as mass extinction, environmental pollution, climate change, and disaster response.”

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