#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In early September, a scientific expedition will set off from St. Petersburg to the Bear Islands archipelago, which will study the population of polar bears using drones, satellites and a neural network. Russian scientists are the first in the world to explore the Arctic using such instruments.
The expedition organizer, Doctor of Geography Vladimir Chernook, spoke in an interview with Petersburg Diary publication about the upcoming research features. According to him, polar bears can be considered an indicator of the Arctic ecosystem state: if there are problems with it, the number of these animals also falls.
The difficulty is that the bears are almost invisible against the background of snow or ice. And since they have “beautiful fur coats with amazing thermal insulation, even ordinary thermal imagers can’t always help here”. Therefore, the expedition members intend to use a link of three to four drones, which will allow them to survey up to four thousand kilometers in one day, as well as use modern technologies to track and analyze data on anthropogenic activities in the Arctic.
According to Vladimir Chernook, a gigantic archive of high-resolution digital images has already been accumulated, where each pixel has an exact reference to the geographic coordinates system. And scientists continue to conduct digital monitoring.
“We are creating digital twins of territories. This can be used not only to save the Arctic zone, but also for its environmentally correct tourism or industrial development”, he explained. “As for new technologies, we also created a neural network and a computer vision system for decoding images taken in the Arctic. Now, it has become much easier for us to distinguish the polar bears against the snow background. The neural network can even in some cases determine the sex, age and fatness of individuals, which is also necessary for assessing the ecological situation and the state of the animal population”.
Scientists have previously expressed fears that polar bears will disappear by the end of the century. Now the largest land predators on the planet are learning to survive in a changing climate.
Text: Elena Popova, Photos: Denis Kozhevnikov and Nikolay Shchipko