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The expedition was set up to have two scientists on board: Rishi Sugla, who is an oceanographer, and Jeff Kerby, who researches in plant life and animal interactions in extreme environments. So these two were the scientific backbone of the crew - until last minute we received a request to take someone on board who wanted to check his timelapse cameras around the islands and bring replenishments to some of his team on Tyulenyi.
It was Dr. Vladimir Burkanov, most likely the most knowledgeable person when it comes to life on the Kuril Islands. He has HD timelapse cameras all around the islands to monitor the development of the populations. "When I started 30 years ago, we had a compass", he says. "We use lots of computers and satellite navigation now. Only few years ago, new technologies popped up, showed up in our field research - drones." His team is now using drones to monitor and count the wildlife populations on the island of Tyulenyi.
"Everyday, researchers and students working with scientist Vladimir Burkanov (@bigdaddivladi) fly drones over these populations and feed the resulting photographs into computer vision (that uses a type of AI) models that count all the pups and adults on the island with high accuracy. It is absolutely mind blowing to get a count of tens of thousands of pups from imagery flown earlier in a day (plus a map of where each one is located!!!!!)", Jeff Kerby explained the approach.
For him, it was a reminder of how important international cooperation in research is. "Climate change doesn't care much for the borders we've created as people. But these borders and barriers, whether they are social, political, economic, cultural, or geographic will determine our capacity to deal with its impacts", he said. "Increasing each other's capacity to do important work at the grassroots level, pulling from our institutional resources, is part of how we build something different. I hope I can work to support the scientists I've met here. Not because they needed saving or anything dumb like that, but because solidarity will mean survival going forward."Increasing each other's capacity to do important work at the grassroots level, pulling from our institutional resources, is part of how we build something different. I hope I can work to support the scientists I've met here. Not because they needed saving or anything dumb like that, but because solidarity will mean survival going forward."