DigitalGlobe announced its high-resolution QuickBird satellite imagery is being used to support a significant wildlife observation study in Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea, Alaska. The imagery, purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Marine Mammals Management Office, is proving to be an effective and reliable tool for tracking the populations of the Pacific walrus — a widely distributed species that spends winters in the Bering Sea’s pack ice and spring in the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska. Satellite imagery has the potential to dramatically change our ability to track these populations. While testing the accuracy of the imagery against traditional data collection methods, we began understanding how we could apply this technology and perhaps save both time and money. DigitalGlobe’s QuickBird imagery provides the highest resolution satellite images to date, and may allow us to assess population changes with greater consistency and accuracy than in the past. The agency’s traditional data collection methods required extensive hazardous survey work involving ice-breaking ships, long-range aircraft and excursions to remote and isolated locations. Using QuickBird imagery, the organization hopes to census the population more safely and reliably, while relying less on traditional survey methods. In addition, the 60-centimeter resolution of the imagery allows the team to view individual walrus. Despite the size of the animals, which often reach nearly ten feet in length and 3,700 pounds, this is the first space-borne solution that is able to show individual walrus, thereby providing more effective data than ever before.
According to Stan Moll of AeroMap U.S., the reseller that established the relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife for DigitalGlobe, The use of technology is limited only by the vision and imagination of the user. This is clearly an innovative example of how QuickBird imagery can be used to solve issues in fields such as wildlife and environmental management. The QuickBird satellite, orbiting 270 miles above the Earth, produces 60-centimeter (2-foot) resolution satellite imagery, the highest resolution commercial satellite imagery in the world. DigitalGlobe’s customers use the images for numerous commercial applications including geographic information systems (GIS), city planning and mapping, agricultural monitoring, natural disaster evaluations, flight simulations, environmental assessments and forestry mapping. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.