4 Innovative Ways Scientists Are Gathering Polar Research
The Polar Regions are the most remote parts of our planet. And it’s because of this that they can tell us so much about the world we live in and how we can protect it. Scientists from countries all around the world carry out important research work in both Antarctica and the Arctic, unearthing fascinating discoveries that can help us better understand these regions and the animals that live there. Here are just a few innovative techniques that have been used.
When augmented reality started to become a viable technology, around 2014, it was immediately earmarked as something that could be used to help scientists gather research in hard to reach places. AR, as it is often called, creates a digital image over your real world surroundings to offer an addition layer of stimulus. This can be used to help analyse something on the spot rather than having to extract it and perform the analysis in a lab. It could also help collect data in severe conditions and aid the visualisation of a project. Initially, the technology was going to be used via Google Glass but, as the product fell flat at launch, new ways of using the technology in the field are being developed.
As we explained in a previous blog post, scientists are taking advantage of the natural abilities possessed by the Weddell Seal to help research in the Southern Ocean. It’s important to know how this vast body of water is changing and so there is a need to collect water temperature and salinity levels. However, it’s very difficult and expensive to provide human beings with the equipment to dive down to the depths needed to obtain the data. Seals, on the other hand, are great divers and are more than happy to report their findings from depths up to 2,400 metres via electronic tags.
Leave it to NASA to devise a research method that involves shooting lasers from satellites orbiting the Earth. This ten-year project took place from 2006 – 2015 and has allowed scientists to learn about how plankton cycles affect the ecosystems in polar oceans. Many of the animals found at both poles rely on the rich plankton supplies for food and research was being carried in regard to the blooming that occurs when large amounts of the plankton are produced. The laser, which was given the catchy name of Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization, was capable of working through fog and cloud, enabling research to be carried out in all weathers.
There have been many news stories in recent years regarding the dwindling populations of polar bears in the Arctic. This is something that needs more study but it is difficult and intrusive to gain the data. In the past, specific animals would have to be tranquilised and assessed or fitted with trackers, but new techniques have made things a lot easier. In 2014, WWF teamed up with French scientists to extract polar bear DNA from a single footprint. This was able to tell them about the health of the animal and even details about its most recent meal (seal and seagull DNA were also found). It is hoped that this less expensive technique can be used to evaluate population sizes in the future and could be extended to other rare animals.
If you are keen to carry out your own research into what life is like in the Polar Regions, we can help you find your perfect adventure. Contact us today and our team can provide more information about the Antarctic and Arctic cruises we offer.