Researchers in The Bahamas have been testing just how good drone videos can be for estimating the abundance and distribution of large marine animals found just beneath the ocean’s surface. They flew aerial surveys using commercial-grade drones along six tidal creeks facing high and low human impact, to count sharks, rays, and sea turtles — groups that are both threatened and difficult to monitor. The findings from multiple sites suggest that shoreline development negatively affects the abundance and distribution of various marine species. The study also showed that using lower-cost consumer drones equipped with video cameras could help researchers effectively and non-invasively estimate abundance of these marine megafauna in shallow waters and compare data across sites. Using drones for wildlife surveys isn’t new to marine wildlife research, but it’s been focused mainly on detecting the large mammals and sea turtles that break the ocean’s surface to breathe. Researchers in The Bahamas wanted to test whether they could also locate the many sharks, rays, and other species that spend time just below the ocean’s surface using small, commercially available drones. They published their findings and testing methods last month. “We found that drones can be used to count and make […]

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