If the word “drone” conjures negative thoughts of spying and remote warfare, here’s something cheerful to contemplate.
Drones and digital tags are helping scientists study humpback whales in remote areas of the Antarctic, where in-person access is limited.
A partnership among Duke University Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab (MaRRS), Friedlaender Lab, California Ocean Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund is using drone photography to study how the whales feed, how healthy they are, and how they’re being affected by climate change. Drone images are also used to count local populations.
Butterflies, that is. Although current interest in The Crown television series may indicate increased popularity for the current Queen as well.
Back to the winged kind. The World Wildlife Fund reports that the forest area where monarch butterflies hibernate during their annual migration — leaving the US and Canada to spend the winter in Mexico — has more than doubled, the largest increase in 12 years.
To help improve the butterflies’ chance of survival along their migratory route, conservation efforts include planting milkweed in the US — it’s the only plant where monarchs lay their eggs — and establishing flower gardens in Mexico to provide them with nectar. What a sweet homecoming!
The Nature Conservancy recently reported survey results indicating that Hawaiian coral reefs are showing signs of growth and stabilization after devastating bleaching occurred in 2015. The healthier reefs were generally further away from excessive exposure to “human influences”, but even the most vulnerable species are starting to recover.
What’s more, there’s good news for fish living on coral reefs impacted by climate change*. A new study suggests that these reefs can still be productive, as the fish get most of their food from the currents which flow past them.