I spend a day visiting the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, one of the two most iconic tropical forest research stations (the other being BCI in Panama). It is a two hour drive from San Jose over a magnificent volcanic range. The station is incredibly well set up, with a large canteen and magnificent laboratory facilities and a library.
We take a guided work that spots a wonderful variety of birds, as well as harlequin beetles, green and helmeted iguanas, howler monkeys, spider monkeys and a swarm of collared peccaries. I am keen to strike out deep into the old growth forest, but unfortunately our visit there is frustratingly brief. There are some magnificent tall trees there though.
The reserve is a peninsula in a sea of deforested land (some of it now regrowing). Having seen the forest I have a more intuitive sense of the place when I read about it in scientific papers.
This week a team from ETH Zurich (Chris Kettle, Chue Poh) and the company Research Drones are visiting our research site at Wytham Woods, near Oxford. They are demonstrating new lightweight drone (or UAV) technology that enables collection of airborne imagery and movies. The whole set-up costs less than 3000 pounds, make it very affordable for remote projects. The challenge is to see how usable the imagery is afterwards, and this is what I am keen to find out both in the field, and afterwards when we process the data.
Today the team did a demo to a group of around 30 people from various Oxford departments and local environmental consultants. The technology is certainly impressive, though there is a clear sense of a work in progress, almost a hobbyist activity, to get the most out of it.
More details at researchdrones.com
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University