Seeing in the Dark: Imaging Bats at Wind Turbines

Friday, November 18, 2011

Expansion of wind energy production nationwide, for all its benefits, brings an unwanted side effect: increased bat and bird mortality at wind turbines. Assessing the risk industrial wind turbines pose to migratory bats is hindered by low-light conditions and the challenges of monitoring night-flying animals characterized by small size, rapid and non-linear flight, and irregular occurrence. USGS scientists Marcos Gorresen (Hawai‘i Cooperative Studies Unit, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo; presenter), Paul Cryan (FORT), and Frank Bonaccorso (Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center) are devising a way to directly observe bat occurrence and behavior at wind turbines using a video system composed of high-powered illuminators and near-infrared cameras. This new video system images flying bats and birds, then uses advanced image-processing software to identify flight attributes (like velocity, direction, and acceleration) indicative of bats being struck by moving turbine blades. The USGS project, conducted in August and September 2011 at wind energy sites in Hawaii and Pennsylvania, is the first field validation of near-infrared videography to nocturnally track and quantify target motion (bats in this case) at distances greater than 100 meters under realistic operational conditions. This a significant step in developing a feasible methodology that will enhance our understanding of how wind turbines affect bats and nocturnal migratory birds, with the ultimate goal of finding new ways for wind-energy development to continue expanding while minimizing the detrimental effects of this renewable energy source on wildlife. Gorreson presented on this work at The Wildlife Society's annual meeting in Kona, Hawaii, on 9 Nov. 2011 in a talk entitled, "Monitoring and researching bat activity at wind turbines with near infrared videography."

Paul Cryan

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Paul Cryan

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