Skip to main content

News article

Weather radars reign for info on flying animals

Rebecca Rodgers newsroom
CDU PhD candidate Rebecca Rogers has been using weather radar data to better understand magpie geese

Scientists are using weather radars, originally developed to measure rainfall, to study the flight patterns of birds, bats and insects. A researcher claims, however, that we should use radars to measure flying animals more often.

Charles Darwin University PhD candidate Rebecca Rogers said weather radars could provide information about the number of animals in the air, the height of their flight path, and the speed and direction of their flight.

“We can use this information with other techniques such as GPS tracking devices and aerial survey data to paint a bigger picture about flying animals’ migration and distribution patterns,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca is researching how we can use these radars to study long-term changes in movement behaviours of magpie geese, a water bird common in Northern Australia. Magpie geese are increasingly spotted in urban areas and have become a costly problem for mango farmers during harvest season.

Most of the published ecological studies using these radars occur in the Northern Hemisphere; in the Southern Hemisphere, however, this technology is currently under-utilised.

“We want to focus on how we can use weather radar to better manage flying animals,” Rebecca said.

“Magpie geese are a good model species because we already have good survey data on where they are during certain times of the year; we can add our radar data on top of that. They also have a synchronised pattern of movement and are large bodied, which makes it quite easy to pick them up on the radar.”

The radars consistently collect data every five to 10 minutes and can cover a radius of up to 250 km over decades. This is a data-rich record of animals moving through the airspace. Combined with other data sources such as GPS tracking and wildlife surveys it could drastically improve how flying animals are monitored in the Southern Hemisphere.

Rebecca said radar data became openly accessible recently, meaning the raw data were freely available for scientists across all disciplines, thanks to a collaboration between Monash University, the Bureau of Meteorology and the National Computing Infrastructure.

“We’d like to get more people talking about it because there are a lot of skills out there that people don’t realise could be invaluable in increasing the application of this technique, like programming and statistics,” she said.

Related Articles

  • Charles Darwin University (CDU) Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

    CDU joins project to recycle bromine and antimony from plastics

    Charles Darwin University (CDU) is joining with The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) and the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al Ain to develop new processes for recovering and recycling bromine and antimony from flame-retardant plastics. 

    Read more about CDU joins project to recycle bromine and antimony from plastics
  • CDU Conservation Professor Stephen Garnett with the Action Plan for Australian Birds 2020 book he edited that identified 216 threatened birds in Australia.

    CDU and BirdLife Australia release Action Plan for Australian Birds

    A landmark new report launched today released by BirdLife Australia and Charles Darwin University (CDU) shows a worrying number of Australia’s birds are closer to extinction than they were a decade ago.

    Read more about CDU and BirdLife Australia release Action Plan for Australian Birds
  • Traditional Owner Ryan Barrowei teaches his nephew Laith Douglas how to use the drone to see Country after cool fire management at Jarrangbarnmi.

    First Nations-led protocols guiding responsible drone use on Traditional Land

    A First Nations-led project focusing on drone use guided by Traditional Owners in Kakadu National Park has developed protocols for responsible and ethical use of drones and other technologies on First Nations owned and managed land in Australia.

    Read more about First Nations-led protocols guiding responsible drone use on Traditional Land