Berkeley -- In the bayous of eastern Arkansas, amidst ancient trees both living and dead that provide nourishment to creatures of the swamp, hangs a high-tech sentinel patiently waiting to capture video of an elusive bird once thought to be extinct.
Developed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Texas A&M University, the high-resolution intelligent robotic video system installed in the Bayou DeView area of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas is part of a major effort to locate the ivory-billed woodpecker in its historic habitat, the bottomland forests of the southeast United States.
If the researchers obtain conclusive photographic evidence of the woodpecker, it will settle a debate that has become heated in recent years and fascinated millions of people around the world, from bird-watchers and environmentalists to Arkansas farmers and duck hunters.
In the meantime, the new robotic video system provides detailed video sequences of other birds, suggesting a new high-tech approach to doing field biology work.
Ken Goldberg, a UC Berkeley professor of industrial engineering and operations research, and of electrical engineering and computer sciences, will present initial samples from this video system on Saturday, Feb. 17, at a news briefing on the future of robotics at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.
The robotic video system is part of a new project, called Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE) and funded by the National Science Foundation, to develop automated systems that can observe and record detailed natural behavior in remote settings. Goldberg and his former graduate student, Dezhen Song, now an assistant professor of computer science at Texas A&M, are co-principal investigators of the project.