This might be a useful birding tool
scray at wolfenet.com
Fri Mar 29 17:51:00 PST 2002
This system appears to have a lot of possibilities...But will birding be any
fun when we can know in advance where all the birds are?
LONG BEACH, California (API)--Scientists on Friday excitedly unveiled what
they call the ultimate weapon in the fight to preserve endangered species.
The excitement surrounded the launch of the DNA Remote Sensing Satellite
(DNARS) from an ocean platform in the south Pacific. The satellite settled
into orbit over the equator on Saturday, after a rocket boosted it into
space from a South Pacific seapad the day before. Controllers aboard the
Odyssey Launch Platform, sitting on the equator about 1,400 miles (2,253
kilometers) southeast of Hawaii, said the Saturday liftoff of the US-built
Atlas rocket went flawlessly, carrying DNARS into orbit. Over the next few
weeks, the satellite will be nudged into its permanent geostationary orbit.
According to Matthew Spassvogel of Great Britain's Royal Society of
Ornithologists, and one of the main supporters of the system, technology
onboard the satellite takes advantage of recent advances in the
understanding of DNA, the genetic blueprint of all life. "This is
extraordinarily significant," said Spassvogel, vice president for endangered
species monitoring. "This satellite system is the cornerstone in furthering
our understanding of the environment." Onboard sensors will detect every
occurrence of DNA matching that of known samples extracted in the
laboratory. This translates into the ability to detect and geographically
map every individual of a given species from space, says Alyesheva
Mentiroso, lead NASA scientist on the project. "Such detail is
unprecedented in the world of population studies," said Rees Lange of the
World Wildlife Group. A delighted Rees went on to say, "The system will
allow real time mapping of species of which, until now, we could only guess
about their distribution and population." According to project scientists,
the resolution of the system is limited to organisms with individual mass
greater than about 500 grams. Future versions may allow detection of
species as small as 5 to 10 grams, near the theoretical limit of the
technology according to Mentiroso. A species' distribution can be
accurately mapped in about 24 hours, with mapping precision equivalent to
current Global Positioning System data. The consortium is working with a
number of environmental groups to prioritize a list of species for the
initial round of mapping.
American ornithologists are hoping that one of the first uses of the system
will be to learn the fate of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long believed
extinct until a possible recent sighting in Louisiana.
The wider community, however, failed to share the enthusiasm of scientists.
Moments after the announcement, the National Home Construction Association
(NHCA) called DNARS a blatant attempt to put them out of business. "If this
project is successful," bristled Wyr Uhskamm, president of the NHCA, "real
estate development will grind to a halt, jobs will be lost and severe damage
to the US economy will result. This is a clear example of environmentalist
wackos out of control."
Asked what impact she thought DNARS will have on the economy, NASA's
Mentiroso refused to speculate, stating only that the potential wealth of
data will revolutionize species management.
In theory, this technology will make possible direct observation of
individual persons by law enforcement agencies, as well. By Saturday
afternoon, civil liberties groups were cautiously warning that this is
effort is another threat to personal privacy. However, William Espia,
spokesperson for the National Association of Law Enforcement Organizations,
released a statement saying, "Only persons with something to hide need worry
about this technology."
The satellite will be positioned over the equator at approximately 90
degrees west, allowing it to view the entire western hemisphere. The second
satellite in the system, to be positioned over the eastern hemisphere, is
slated for launch later this year. Other partners in the consortium include
USGS High Island Wildlife Research Center; the World Wildlife Protection
Fund of Sao Paulo, Brazil; RSC-DPA of Moscow, and KL Yuzhnoya/PS Yuzhmasti
of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine.
scray at wolfenet.com
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