Cormorants Collect Coastal Ocean Data

Oct 8, 2021 | Climate Change, Daily Space, Earth

IMAGE: Cormorants roost on a channel marker in the Columbia River estuary in Oregon. Backpack-style biologging devices on two of the birds (left and second from right) measure the dynamic oceanographic features the birds encounter on their daily foraging dives. CREDIT: Adam Peck-Richardson

While humans remain the only Earth species to publish research papers, we are not alone in our pursuit of science, although many of our collaborators have no idea that they’re working as our research assistants. 

Take the Cormorant Oceanography Project, for instance. This project is putting sensors on diving marine birds. These sensors allow researchers to study ocean salinity at a variety of depths and to measure surface currents, air-sea temperatures, and more. Once back at the surface, the sensors then radio home and upload data to researchers. 

Since the birds travel into many hard-to-reach places while seeking food, they are able to get more data at a lower cost and with greater ease than your typical research student, research robot, or even research vessel. These are the kinds of information that are dearly needed by folks studying climate change, and it looks like atmospheric researchers are going to need to learn more and more about catching and tagging birds. This research is described in depth by Rachael Orben in Eos.

More Information

Cormorants Are Helping Characterize Coastal Ocean Environments (Eos)


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