Under NSF funding, we previously developed developed the Satellite-linked Data Acquisition and Photogrammetry (SLiDAP) system, to directly address a critical knowledge deficit of vital data on polar pinnipeds and seabirds. The SLiDAP remote imaging network uses three-dimensional soft copy photogrammetry based on visible spectrum digital still images to significantly increase temporal resolution and numerical accuracy of remote census operations, to determine the age structure of pinniped rookeries through measurements of animals’ lengths, and it uses photogrammetric volume determinations as estimators of body mass and body condition. Installation of multiple SLiDAP imaging systems has begun in Alaska and will continue under existing NSF and NOAA funding.

Under this project, we are developing remote infrared (IR) thermography capability for the SLiDAP system. The SLiDAP system consists of multiple semi-autonomous, self-contained imaging stations linked into a local wireless network and via satellite link to research laboratories. We are adding IR imaging capability by building additional imaging stations that combine a visible spectrum digital still camera with uncooled micro-bolometer based infrared detector cameras. We are developing custom camera to control-PC interface and control software, and are adapting the current viewport design for the required transparency for IR imaging.

IR image of a sea lion sitting on a rock surrounded by water. The image is a false color image, with red and orange colors representing higher temperatures, and blue and black colors representing cold temperatures. The sea lion is mostly of the same blue and thus temperature as water. The eye and nose are bright red. They are the hottest part of the sea lion.

The integration of infrared thermography into the SLiDAP system will permit remote accurate temperature measurements of biological objects. These remote measurements will be used for several specific applications under existing funding, including extension of census operations into low-light or night-time conditions, and the assessment of health and reproductive status of pinnipeds, by the above listed research and management organizations. In addition, we are planning a novel application of remote thermography for the assessment of subcutaneous blubber thickness and associated body condition trends of individual Steller sea lions in Alaska. These assessments will be based on the analysis of radiative temperature patterns across different regions of an animal's body. To permit large-scale application of this novel approach, we will conduct the calibration of skin-temperature patterns vs. blubber thickness on captive animals under highly controlled conditions, as part of the development work proposed here.

This project is directed by the Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Laboratory in cooperation with the Alaska SeaLife Center.

The infrared thermography project is supported by:

The National Science Foundation
The Alaska SeaLife Center

This research is carried out under NMFS Permit numbers 881-1668 and 1034-1887.