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Gizmorama - March 23, 2016

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Now drones have a purpose other than hovering over celebrities homes. Drones are being utilized to improve ecological monitoring. Observation over interference.
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Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

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*--- Drones promise to improve ecological monitoring ---*

MELBOURNE - Researchers have already begun using drones for all kinds of ecological monitoring, but until now, scientists hadn't studied their efficacy.

A basic question remained unanswered. Do drone-captured ecological observations compare favorably with those made by human scientists in the field?

Researchers at Monash University set out to quantify the precision of wildlife surveys conducted by drones.

"Until now, it has been unclear as to how precise drone technology might be when monitoring the size of populations of wildlife," Monash ecologist Rohan Clarke said in a press release. "Our latest research has demonstrated that a very high degree of precision can be achieved when using drone technology to monitor wildlife."

A group of human scientists and a team of drones were deployed to count and monitor colonies of frigatebirds, terns and penguins. Researchers found the counts conducted by drones were more consistent and accurate.

The study -- published in the journal Scientific Reports -- also showed that an aerial view is superior for the purpose counting birds. Researchers also confirmed bird colonies weren't disturbed by hovering drone counters.

"It's highly likely that in the future, drones will be used to monitor populations of birds and animals, especially in inaccessible areas where on the ground surveying is difficult or impossible," Clarke added. "This opens up exciting new possibilities when it comes to more accurately monitoring Earth's ecosystems."

*-- Lasers speed up detection of bacteria in packaged food --*

JINHUA, China - The wrong type of bacterial growth in packaged food can poison consumers.

Monitoring bacterial growth isn't easy, but researchers in Sweden and China have collaborated to create a laser-powered device that accurately monitors microorganisms in food and blood supplies.

Currently, food producers rely on a relatively short shelf life to ensure their products don't go bad as a result of pathogenic microbes. Researchers say an improved understanding and monitoring of bacterial growth could diminish food waste.

"Microorganism growth is always associated with the production of carbon dioxide, CO2," researcher Jie Shao, associate professor with the Institute of Information Optics at Zhejiang Normal University, in Jinhua, China, said in a news release. "By assessing the level of CO2 within a given closed compartment -- bottle or bag -- it's possible to assess the microbial growth."

The new device, which consists of series of laser diodes and optical sensors, improves on previous technologies by achieving very low detection limits of CO2.

"The emission wavelength of the laser is tuned over a characteristic absorption line transition -- of the species within the gas being assessed," Shao explained. "This causes a reduction of the measured signal intensity, which we can use to determine the gas concentration."

The extra-sensitive laser allows bacterial growth in packages of food or biological samples to be quickly and accurately measured.

The new detection device is described in a new paper published in the journal Applied Optics.


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