Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crittercam





Time for another animal infusion. Let's have a look at the world from their point of view today. This is possible because of the invention of the Crittercam in 1987 by scientist and filmmaker Greg Marshall. I heard Marshall speak in 2007 at National Geographic's Animal-Borne Imaging Symposium, where he explained that the idea had been sparked during a dive in Belize by the sight of remora fish clinging to the side of a shark. Since the Crittercam's original deployment, it has been improved dramatically. It is now a fraction of the size of the original, films for a longer time at higher resolution, and records a huge amount of environmental data (like temperature, speed, and direction) in addition to audio and video. After the data collection, the Crittercam drops off or is remotely released and recovered. As the VP for Remote Imaging at NatGeo since 1993, Marshall has assisted and inspired biologists to attach cameras to dozens of creatures:
And now that the cost of the Crittercam has also been reduced (from $13,000 to $1,500), it can be used by even more biologists in the field. Says Marshall, “It’s an entirely new paradigm for us. We can fully expect for the first time ever to put [one] in a box and send it to a scientist researching in the middle of nowhere alone. It’s an opportunity to observe unimagined phenomenon.

The 1st footage from a Crittercam that I saw was from a domestic housecat. Marshall describes, "...she's a really loving creature. She's the kind of cat you really want to cuddle, and her owner cuddled her routinely and kissed her regularly and got kisses back. Then the owner would let the cat out at night and kind of wonder what she was doing, because she would disappear for hours at a time. We discovered she was actively going out and eating rats. Capturing and eating them head to tail from under dumpsters in the back alleys of Washington, D.C. It was pretty horrifying to see." I can't find the video on YouTube, but distinctly remember the rat dangling from the cat's mouth! If you haven't seen enough, there are more animal-borne images cataloged at the Museum of Animal Perspectives.

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