Tag Archives: biodiversity

‘Robomussels’ for climate change

These ‘robomussels’ are not voting but they are being used to monitor mussel bed habitats according to an Oct. 17, 2016 news item on ScienceDaily,

Tiny robots have been helping researchers study how climate change affects biodiversity. Developed by Northeastern University scientist Brian Helmuth, the “robomussels” have the shape, size, and color of actual mussels, with miniature built-in sensors that track temperatures inside the mussel beds.

Caption: This is a robomussel, seen among living mussels and other sea creatures. Credit: Allison Matzelle

Caption: This is a robomussel, seen among living mussels and other sea creatures. Credit: Allison Matzelle

An Oct. 12, 2016 Northeastern University news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes a project some 20 years in the making,

For the past 18 years, every 10 to 15 minutes, Helmuth and a global research team of 48 scientists have used robomussels to track internal body temperature, which is determined by the temperature of the surrounding air or water, and the amount of solar radiation the devices absorb. They place the robots inside mussel beds in oceans around the globe and record temperatures. The researchers have built a database of nearly two decades worth of data enabling scientists to pinpoint areas of unusual warming, intervene to help curb damage to vital marine ecosystems, and develop strategies that could prevent extinction of certain species.

Housed at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts, this largest-ever database is not only a remarkable way to track the effects of climate change, the findings can also reveal emerging hotspots so policymakers and scientists can step in and relieve stressors such as erosion and water acidification before it’s too late.

“They look exactly like mussels but they have little green blinking lights in them,” says Helmuth. “You basically pluck out a mussel and then glue the device to the rock right inside the mussel bed. They enable us to link our field observations with the physiological impact of global climate change on these ecologically and economically important animals.”

For ecological forecasters such as Helmuth, mussels act as a barometer of climate change. That’s because they rely on external sources of heat such as air temperature and sun exposure for their body heat and thrive, or not, depending on those conditions. Using fieldwork along with mathematical and computational models, Helmuth forecasts the patterns of growth, reproduction, and survival of mussels in intertidal zones.

Over the years, he and his colleagues have found surprises: “Our expectations of where to look for the effects of climate change in nature are more complex than anticipated,” says Helmuth. For example, in an earlier paper in the journal Science, his team found that hotspots existed not only at the southern end of the species’ distribution, in this case, southern California; they also existed at sites up north, in Oregon and Washington state.

“These datasets tell us when and where to look for the effects of climate change,” he says. “Without them we could miss early warning signs of trouble.”

The robomussels’ near-continuous measurements serve as an early warning system. “If we start to see sites where the animals are regularly getting to temperatures that are right below what kills them, we know that any slight increase is likely to send them over the edge, and we can act,” says Helmuth.

It’s not only the mussels that may be pulled back from the brink. The advance notice could inform everything from maintaining the biodiversity of coastal systems to determining the best–and worst–places to locate mussel farms.

“Losing mussel beds is essentially like clearing a forest,” says Helmuth. “If they go, everything that’s living in them will go. They are a major food supply for many species, including lobsters and crabs. They also function as filters along near-shore waters, clearing huge amounts of particulates. So losing them can affect everything from the growth of species we care about because we want to eat them to water clarity to biodiversity of all the tiny animals that live on the insides of the beds.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Long-term, high frequency in situ measurements of intertidal mussel bed temperatures using biomimetic sensors by Brian Helmuth, Francis Choi, Gerardo Zardi.  Scientific Data 3, Article number: 160087 (2016) doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.87 Published online: 11 October 2016

This paper is open access.

Nearby Nature GigaBlitz—Summer Solstice 2012—get your science out

The June 20 – 26, 2012 GigaBlitz event is an international citizen science project focused on biodiversity. From the June 13, 2012 news item on physorg.com,

A high-resolution image of a palm tree in Brazil, which under close examination shows bees, wasps and flies feasting on nectars and pollens, was the top jury selection among the images captured during last December’s Nearby Nature GigaBlitz. It’s also an example of what organizers hope participants will produce for the next GigaBlitz, June 20-26 [2012].

Here’s a close up from the Brazilian palm tree image,

Bee close up from Palmeira em flor, by Eduardo Frick (http://gigapan.com/gigapans/95168/)

This bee close up does not convey the full impact of an image that you can zoom from a standard size to extreme closeups of insects, other animals, portions of palm fronds, etc. To get the full impact go here.

Here’s more about the Nearby Nature GigaBlitz events from the June 13, 2012 Carnegie Mellon University news release,

The Nearby Nature GigaBlitz events are citizen science projects in which people use gigapixel imagery technology to document biodiversity in their backyards — if not literally in their backyards, then in a nearby woodlot or vacant field. These images are then shared and made available for analysis via the GigaPan website. The events are organized by a trio of biologists and their partners at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab.

December’s GigaBlitz included contributors from the United States, Canada, Spain, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. Ten of the best images are featured in the June issue of GigaPan Magazine, an online publication of CMU’s CREATE Lab.

The issue was guest-edited by the organizers of the GigaBlitz: Ken Tamminga, professor of landscape architecture at Penn State University; Dennis vanEngelsdorp, research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology; and M. Alex Smith, assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

The inspiration for the gigablitz comes from the world of ornithology (bird watching), from the Carnegie Mellon University June 13, 2012 news release,

Tamminga, vanEngelsdorp and Smith envisioned something akin to a BioBlitz, an intensive survey of a park or nature preserve that attempts to identify all living species within an area at a given time, and citizen science efforts such as the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

“We imagined using these widely separated, but nearby, panoramas as a way of collecting biodiversity data – similar to the Christmas bird count – where citizen scientists surveyed their world, then distributed and shared that data with the world through public GigaPans,” they wrote. “The plus of the GigaPan approach was that the sharing was bi-directional – not merely ‘This is what I saw,’ but also hearing someone say, ‘This is what I found in your GigaPan.'”

Here’s an excerpt from the Nearby Nature gigablitz June 20 -26, 2012 Call for Entries,

The challenge: Gigapixel imaging can reveal a surprising range of animal and plant species in the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary settings in which we live, learn, and work. Your challenge is to capture panoramas of Nearby Nature and share them with your peers at gigapan.org for further exploration. We hope that shared panoramas and snapshotting will help the GigaPan community more deeply explore, document, and celebrate the diversity of life forms in their local habitats.

Gigablitz timing: The event will take place over a 7-day period – a gigablitz – that aligns with the June solstice. Please capture and upload your images to the gigapan.org website between 6am, June 20 and 11pm, June 26 (your local time).

Juried selections:    Panoramas that meet the criteria below are eligible for inclusion in the science.gigapan.org Nearby Nature collection. The best panoramas will be selected by a jury for publication in an issue of GigaPan Magazine dedicated to the Nearby Nature collection.  Selection criteria are as follows:

  • Biodiversity: the image is species rich.
  • Uniqueness: the image contains particularly interesting or unique species, or the image captures a sense of the resilience of life-forms in human-dominated settings.
  • Nearby Nature context: image habitat is part of, or very near, the everyday places that people inhabit.
  • Image quality: the image is of high quality and is visually captivating.

Subjects and locations: The gigablitz subject may be any “nearby” location in which you have a personal interest:  schoolyard garden, backyard habitat, balcony planter, village grove, nearby remnant woods, vacant lot meadow next door and others.  Panoramas with high species richness (the range of different species in a given area) that are part of everyday places are especially encouraged.  It is the process of making and sharing gigapans that will transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when choosing a place:

  • The panorama should focus on organisms in a habitat near your home, school or place of work.
  • Any life-forms are acceptable, such as plants, insects, and other animals.
  • Rich, sharp detail will encourage snapshotters to help identify organisms in your panorama.  Thus, your gigapan unit should be positioned close to the subject habitat – within 100 feet (30 meters) away, and preferably much closer.  Up close mini-habitats in the near-macro range are welcome.

Please do check the Call for Entries for additional information about the submissions.

As for the website which hosts the contest, I checked the About GigaPan page and found this,

What is a GigaPan?

Gigapans are gigapixel panoramas, digital images with billions of pixels. They are huge panoramas with fascinating detail, all captured in the context of a single brilliant photo. Phenomenally large, yet remarkably crisp and vivid, gigapans are available to be explored at GigaPan.com. Zoom in and discover the detail of over 50,000 panoramas from around the world.

A New Dimension for Photography

GigaPan gives experienced and novice photographers the technology to create high-resolution panorama images more easily than ever before, and the resulting GigaPan images offer viewers a new, unique perspective on the world.

GigaPan offers the first solution for shooting, viewing and exploring high-resolution panoramic images in a single system: EPIC series of robotic camera mounts capture photos using almost any digital camera; GigaPan Stitch Software automatically combines the thousands of images taken into a single image; and GigaPan.com enables the unique mega-high resolution viewing experience.

GigaPan EPIC

GigaPan EPIC robotic mounts empower cameras to take hundreds, even thousands of photos, which are combined to create one highly detailed image with amazing depth and clarity.

The GigaPan EPIC and EPIC 100 are compatible with a broad range of point-and-shoot cameras and small DSLRs to capture gigapans, quickly and accurately. Light and compact, they are easy-to-use, and remarkably efficient. The EPIC Pro is designed to work with DSLR cameras and larger lenses, features advanced technology, and delivers stunning performance and precision. Strong enough to hold a camera and lens combination of up to 10 lbs, the EPIC Pro enables users to capture enormous panoramas with crisp, vivid detail.

Bringing Mars Rover Technology to Earth

The GigaPan EPIC series is based on the same technology employed by the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to capture the incredible images of the red planet. Now everyone has the opportunity to use technology developed for Mars to take their own incredible images.

GigaPan was formed in 2008 as a commercial spin-off of a successful research collaboration between a team of researchers at NASA and Carnegie Mellon University. The company’s mission is to bring this powerful, high-resolution imaging capability to a broad audience.

The original GigaPan prototype and related software were devised by a team led by Randy Sargent, a senior systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon West and the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

If I understand this rightly, this commercial enterprise (GigaPan), which offers hardware and software,  also supports a community-sharing platform for the types of images made possible by the equipment they sell.

Vancouver’s Café Scientifique March 27, 2012 meeting

At the Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada) as usual, this month’s Café Scientifique features (from the March 2012 announcement),

Dr. Bruce Archibald, a paleontologist from Simon Fraser University. His café will be:

How are global patterns of biodiversity affected by climate? The view from a fossil fly’s eye.

Understanding the way that large-scale patterns of biodiversity are affected by climate has been among the greatest outstanding problems in ecology. Why are there more species in the tropics? The answer isn’t as simple as it might seem at first, as some possible controlling factors change together with latitude, and so their individual affects are difficult to evaluate. This Gordian knot might be cut, though, by looking in deep time, when global climates followed different patterns than today. So, comparing both modern and fossil communities in their environmental contexts allows a novel view of this problem. Why do the species compositions of communities change differently across mountainous landscapes in the tropics than in the Temperate Zones? An intriguing hypothesis proposed by Dan Janzen in 1967 can be examined by this system. Fossil insect communities from our regions may provide answers to understanding some basic ways of how life in the modern world is organized.

The café will take place on

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
7:30 pm
Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir Street

The event is held in a side room and not in the bar proper.