In a collaborative effort, Carleton University researchers and students from the Department of Biology, the Department of Engineering, and the School of Computer Science are conducting a pilot project on a unique approach to wildlife conservation. The pilot project is taking place in James Bay where more than two dozen species of shorebirds stop to rest and feed before they continue their migration.

Every summer, a team of volunteers travels to James Bay to count shorebirds (species and locations) by walking back and forth along transects that run perpendicular to the shore. However, this type of survey can be invasive, disturbing some endangered birds and adding risk to their southbound journeys.  As a result of the collaboration between the Faculties of Biology and Computer Engineering (Computer Science), hyper-realistic 3D-printed models of shorebirds and a small drone to count the birds were produced.

For this approach to work, the model birds need to be realistic. And for that, the researchers turned to Biology Professor Jeff Dawson.  “We collected photographs of the different shorebird species,” says Dawson, who worked with undergraduate computer science student Skyler Bruggink to create the digital models.  “To make sure we had modelled the birds accurately, we compared the 3D models to actual taxonomic specimens and made sure they had accurate dimensions and attributes.”

Skyler’s father, Ed Bruggink, a wildlife artist who has managed the biology department’s greenhouses for nearly 40 years, then painted the models to give them a lifelike look and feel.

See the full article from The Raven to learn more about this important conservation work: