Surveys for sea turtles, seabirds and sharks underway

The marine UAS facility has been really busy the past week. Now that Hurricane Joaquin is a memory and the rains mostly moved on, we are flying missions to assess how well we can detect various species of marine vertebrates and how conditions of water depth affect this detectability.

Working with researchers at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, we have been deploying bird decoys of several species, bonnet head shark models, and sea turtle carcasses along nearby shorelines and conducting UAV surveys over these coastal habitats. While we are just getting going with this, we’ve already flown 16 missions and generated gigabytes of imagery. These images and flight data are forming the core of several undergraduate independent study project. We’ve also been conducting some marine debris surveys in preparation for a funding call in the next month or so.

Special thanks to the NC Wildlife Commission and the NC Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve for their collaboration in this work.