ISS astronauts take photographs to track bird migrations

Shane McGlaun - Mar 4, 2021, 7:58am CST
ISS astronauts take photographs to track bird migrations

Some incredible images have been produced from the ISS orbiting the earth over the years. Recently, the Avian Migration Aerial Service Space project known as AMASS took advantage of thousands of images captured by astronauts to indicate how many birds migrate across the planet. The project is meant to map routes taken by several endangered or threatened bird species.

Using the images, scientists can highlight changes along those routes caused mainly by human activities. The project has been in operation for over four years, and astronauts of captured images of key locations along migratory paths of all seven species being investigated in the study. All of the images were taken as part of the Crew Earth Observation project that supports a range of research and education opportunities.

AMASS began participating in the program in 2016 with astronauts photographing locations along the North American migratory path of the Whooping Crane. There’s not much astronauts aboard the ISS to do other than work, and photography is a popular pastime making it easy to recruit crew members to participate. Seven species being photographed for the project include the Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Lesser Flamingo, Piping Plover, Sprague’s Pipit, Red Knot rufa species, and Whooping Crane.

The project will host exhibits and other educational events, but those have been stopped due to the pandemic. With some plans on delay, participants on the project created online story maps of the migratory paths. The first of the completed story maps covers the Lesser Flamingo. An education project using photos from space on an interactive map also incorporates bird migration information.

All around the earth, about 1500 bird species are facing extinction. Disrupting migratory corridors is a serious threat to these endangered birds, and the ISS images aim to bring attention to those threats.


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