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Eyes on Nature: How Satellite Imagery Is Transforming Conservation Science

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High-resolution earth imagery has provided ecologists and conservationists with a dynamic new tool that is enabling everything from more accurate counting of wildlife populations to rapid detection of deforestation, illegal mining, and other changes in the landscape.

….Ecologists have been slow to incorporate satellite data in their work so far, in part because their training and culture are about going into the field to get to know their study subjects at first hand But the rapidly growing abundance and sophistication of satellite imagery and remote sensing data is about to change that:  “High-resolution earth imagery sources represent rich, underutilized troves of information about marine and terrestrial wildlife populations,” Johnston and his co-authors write.  They urge wildlife ecologists to embrace satellite imagery “as a legitimate data source that can supplement and even supplant traditional methods.”

…Among other promising developments, they note, satellite imagery of the Earth is now being collected “globally, frequently, and at increasingly relevant resolution.” It’s also becoming available in user-friendly formats thanks to a profusion of startup companies, including Planet, DigitalGlobe, Skybox Imaging (later purchased by Google and renamed Terra Bella), Urthecast, and LAND INFO Worldwide Mapping….

Jerry H. Moxley et alGoogle Haul Out: Earth Observation Imagery and Digital Aerial Surveys in Coastal Wildlife Management and Abundance Estimation. BioScience bix059. DOI: Published: 14 June 2017

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