Albatross Island isn?t much to look at. It?s just a tiny chunk of rock that sits in the waters about 22 miles north of Tasmania. Not much grows there. It?s cold, it?s wet, and it?s extremely windy. No one lives there. Heck, no one would want to.
It is, however, a perfect place to study the rare birds for which the island got its name. A few times a year researchers load up their equipment and their Dramamine on a boat and travel 22 miles across the choppy, treacherous seas of the Bass Strait in order to monitor the endangered seabird known as the shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta).
?They?re actually not shy at all,? admits Rachael Alderman, a biologist who has been running the Tasmanian government?s shy albatross monitoring program since 2003. ?I spend a lot of time in the colony working with them. They?re really good parents. They?ll defend their nests and their eggs and their chicks with their lives.?
How could they collect more data without spending more time on Albatross Island?
It turned out that baseball had the answer.
More specifically, the solution is a camera system initially designed for NASA but more recently put to use in baseball stadiums. The GigaPan camera takes hundreds of individual photos that combine into huge panoramic images of entire baseball stadium audiences. Fans can then go in and tag their individual faces from among the thousands that were photographed on game day.
Scientists thought they could do the same thing with wildlife.
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