COLLEGE STATION Computer scientists from Texas A&M University and the University of California, Berkeley, have installed a robot in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge to help natural scientists from Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission find the rare ivory-billed woodpecker.
The computer scientists Dr. Dezhen Song, assistant professor in Texas A&M's Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Kenneth Y. Goldberg, professor in UC Berkeley's departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research developed the robot, Automated Collaborative Observatory for Natural Environments (ACONE), to scan the skies near Brinkley, Ark., for birds.
"If the system can catch any kind of bird, that's a success for us," Song said. "But if it catches an ivory-bill, that's a bonus."
With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Song and Goldberg programmed ACONE to distinguish birds from other objects and only record the birds with its two digital cameras, Arecont Vision's AV3100s.
"It's a fast, flying object," Song said. "And also, the shape of the object the shape of the bird isn't regular. It's deformable, and from the lighting conditions, it's very difficult to capture."
The robot stores images of the birds it has recorded in the hard disks of its computer, Logic Supply Inc.'s S-625F. The computer as well as the cameras are housed in weatherproof cases.
"If you put a normal computer out there, it wouldn't function very long because of the humidity and the rain," Song said.
The hard disks are removed routinely from the computer by birdwatcher M. David Luneau, associate professor in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Department of Engineering Technology. Luneau enlists fellow birdwatchers to scrutinize the images stored in the hard disks for a shot of the ivory-billed woodpecker.