WASHINGTON (Sept. 20, 2007)–Scientists who use special technologies to see the world through animals’ eyes will gather for the first time Oct. 10-13 at the National Geographic Animal-Borne Imaging Symposium in Washington, D.C.
Organized by marine biologist and filmmaker Greg Marshall, inventor of National Geographic’s Crittercam, the symposium will be attended by scientists from around the world. They will share critical information collected by animal-borne technologies that shed light on the behavior of both land and sea creatures, including Hawaiian monk seals, great white sharks and grizzly bears.
“We are going to talk about all we know as a result of animal-borne imaging — and all there is left to learn,” Marshall said. “We are only at the beginning of what we can discover about the natural world using these technologies.”
Some symposium presenters will report on just-completed field work. Many participants have employed Crittercam, a revolutionary research tool that attaches to animals by suction cups and other non-invasive means, recording images, sound and data from the animal’s perspective as it moves through its world. A brand new version of Crittercam, not yet used in the field, will be unveiled at the symposium.
Crittercam has contributed to basic understanding of numerous wild species: For example, it revealed completely unexpected foraging techniques and habitat use of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and discovered that adult green sea turtles in Baja California and Australia feast on invertebrates and scavenge dead fish. Terrestrial Crittercam has gathered unique data on how the elusive brown bears of Alaska’s Chichagof Island feed, socialize and hunt.
The first full day of the symposium will be Thursday, Oct. 11, and will feature a series of 15-minute presentations on field work and analysis by some 50 scientists from as far away as Australia, Japan and Europe. These will include “Studying the Hunting Strategy of White Sharks Using Crittercam” and “Human-Black Bear Conflict in Urban Environments.”
The morning of Friday, Oct. 12, will focus on animal-borne imaging’s technical side — current and past technologies and future initiatives. Friday afternoon, members of the public are invited to a series of presentations in which scientists will share their adventures with animal-borne technologies on a variety of topics, including “Hold Your Breath: Sex and Violence in the Leatherback Turtle World.” There also will be a panel discussion on making films with these technologies.
Other educational events also will take place on Friday. Crittercam scientist/documentary filmmaker Birgit Buhleier and NOAA scientist Frank Parrish will lead a student matinee on the history of Crittercam and its work with monk seals, and Marshall will make a presentation on Crittercam that is tailored for teachers.
Saturday, Oct. 13, will be public festival day, featuring panel discussions on climate change and other topics, screenings of wildlife films made using Crittercam, appearances by live animals from Busch Gardens (including an opportunity for the public to interact with the animals), and a special National Geographic Museum exhibit marking the 20th anniversary of Crittercam’s invention. The day will culminate with a screening of National Geographic’s “Emperors of the Ice,” which highlights Crittercam research and looks at how emperor penguins are coping with global warming. After the screening, Marshall and technology pioneer Jerry Kooyman of Scripps Institution of Oceanography will lead a discussion of the film.
Crittercam was born in Greg Marshall’s basement two decades ago and made its maiden voyage on the back of a sea turtle in Belize. Since then the technology has been deployed hundreds of times around the world — on penguins, numerous kinds of sharks, whales, sea turtles and even a few land animals such as lions, grizzlies and bald eagles.
A clunky device at birth, Crittercam now is a sleek, super-sophisticated machine the size of a petite thermos. The new Crittercam, known as Generation V, is much more than a camera system. It records video, audio and pressure and even makes three-dimensional profiles of sea creatures’ dives, providing information that scientists could only speculate on before. Marshall leads a staff of 10 who engineer and advance the evolution and deployment of Crittercam.
More information: www.nationalgeographic.com/abis