Photo: SEO/Birdlife In the future, cyborg birds may help monitor ocean currents and help ground-truth satellite data. It may sound like an odd prognostication, but a study released on Thursday in Scientific Reports lays the groundwork. Scientists slapped small GPS units on Scopoli’s shearwaters, a common seabird found throughout the Mediterranean and east Atlantic. Rather than tracking their flights, they tracked where they went when they settled on the sea surface in the Balearic Sea that sits off Spain’s east coast. The data they collected lined up well with satellite and buoy measurements of wind- and ocean current-driven motion, meaning seabirds with GPS could be an unexpectedly functional new part of our Earth-monitoring network. Advertisement The bird GPS breakthrough arose thanks to collaboration between ocean-studying physicists and biologists at Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies, known by its Spanish acronym IMEDEA. The biologists were familiar with Scopoli’s shearwaters, a gull-sized seabird, and its habits as it moved between the Balearic Islands and the Iberian peninsula to forage while raising chicks. To track those movements and understand the birds’ life cycle, they attached GPS units to them. The ocean folks, meanwhile, are always hunting for more ways to get data since […]


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