Drones fly to rescue of Amazon wildlife

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World Wildlife Fund-Brazil Conservation Specialist Marcelo Oliveira gets back a drone during the field work of EcoDrones expedition at Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil, on June 29, 2018. (AFP / Mauro Pimentel)
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View of a drone with a thermal camera overflying during the night at Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil, on June 26, 2018. (AFP / Mauro Pimentel)
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Mamiraua Institute biologist Daiane da Rosa gets back a drone during the field work of EcoDrones expedition at Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil, on June 27, 2018. (AFP / Mauro Pimentel)
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Expedition field assistants Joney Brasil (L), 35, and Bide Martins (R), 26, prepare a "voadeira" to take the scientists to work at Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil, on June 26, 2018. (AFP / Mauro Pimentel)
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View of a Tucuxi River dolphin (Sotalia fluviatilis) and a drone with a 360° camera at Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil, on June 28, 2018. (AFP / Mauro Pimentel)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Drones fly to rescue of Amazon wildlife

  • With the help of drones, researchers are able to watch the Amazon’s pink river dolphins in a heavily flooded Amazon reserve
  • The expedition is using new thermal imaging cameras to allow work to continue at night

MAMIRAUA RESERVE, Brazil: A hoarse sound abruptly wakes visitors staying at a floating house that serves as a base for environmentalists on the Jaraua river in the Amazon rainforest.
During flood season, the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve — located 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the Amazonas state capital Manaus — fills with water.
For researchers from the Mamiraua Institute and WWF-Brazil, that means their nearest neighbor is a caiman they call Dominique. It has decided to squat for the day at the end of their house.
But the surprising noise was something else.
“Don’t worry! That’s just the river dolphins breathing. It’s scary in the middle of the night, right?” biologist Andre Coelho says.
The next day, scientists got into two boats, slowly navigating the endless spread of water-filled forest.
In this primeval landscape, the researchers used a drone to help them watch the Amazon’s pink river dolphins, whose scientific name is Inia geoffrensis.
The voyage in late June, which AFP was invited to follow, was the last in the series of a project called EcoDrones, which monitors populations of the pink river dolphin and another type, the tucuxi, or Sotalia fluviatilis.
“We need to understand their behavior and habits so that we can propose policies for their preservation,” said Marcelo Oliveira, from the World Wildlife Fund-Brazil.
Drones “are a tool that will reduce costs and speed up the investigations,” said oceanographer Miriam Marmontel, from the Mamiraua Institute.
The expedition is using new thermal imaging cameras to allow work to continue at night.
“We can observe the animals at times when before it was impossible,” Oliveira said.
Some of the research will be sent to the University of Liverpool in association with WWF-Brazil, with hopes of developing an algorithm that will allow scientists to identify every one of the dolphins during their observations.
“There are many different Amazons in what we call the Amazon jungle,” said Marmontel.
“Our monitoring means we can understand how to preserve animals in each region — what are the dangers and how they can be faced.”


NASA probe detects likely ‘marsquake’ — an interplanetary first

A life-size model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, is shown at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, U.S. November 26, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 April 2019
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NASA probe detects likely ‘marsquake’ — an interplanetary first

  • A more distant quake would yield greater information about Mars’ interior because seismic waves would “penetrate deeper into the planet before they come back up to the seismometer,” he said

CALIFORNIA: NASA’s robotic probe InSight has detected and measured what scientists believe to be a “marsquake,” marking the first time a likely seismological tremor has been recorded on another planet, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California reported on Tuesday.
The breakthrough came nearly five months after InSight, the first spacecraft designed specifically to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down on the surface of Mars to begin its two-year seismological mission on the red planet.
The faint rumble characterized by JPL scientists as a likely marsquake, roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude earthquake, was recorded on April 6 — the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol.
It was detected by InSight’s French-built seismometer, an instrument sensitive enough to measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.
“We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology,” InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said in a news release.
Scientists are still examining the data to conclusively determine the precise cause of the signal, but the trembling appeared to have originated from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind.
“The high frequency level and broad band is very similar to what we get from a rupture process. So we are very confident that this is a marsquake,” Philippe Lognonné, a geophysics and planetary science professor at University Paris Diderot in France and lead researcher for InSight’s seismometer, said in an email.
Still, a tremor so faint in Southern California would be virtually lost among the dozens of small seismic crackles that occur there every day.
“Our informed guesswork is that this a very small event that’s relatively close, maybe from 50 to 100 kilometers away” from the lander, Banerdt told Reuters by telephone.
A more distant quake would yield greater information about Mars’ interior because seismic waves would “penetrate deeper into the planet before they come back up to the seismometer,” he said.
 
The size and duration of the marsquake also fit the profile of some of the thousands of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1977 by seismometers installed there by NASA’s Apollo missions, said Lori Glaze, planetary science division director at NASA headquarters in Washington.
The lunar and Martian surfaces are extremely quiet compared with Earth, which experiences constant low-level seismic noise from oceans and weather as well as quakes that occur along subterranean fault lines created by shifting tectonic plates in the planet’s crust.
Mars and the moon lack tectonic plates. Their seismic activity is instead driven by a cooling and contracting process that causes stress to build up and become strong enough to rupture the crust.
Three other apparent seismic signals were picked up by InSight on March 14, April 10 and April 11 but were even smaller and more ambiguous in origin, leaving scientists less certain they were actual marsquakes.
Lognonné said he expected InSight to eventually detect quakes 50 to 100 times larger than the April 6 tremor.