Riley to present Evening at Egan lecture tonight

Posted: Friday, September 19, 2008

JUNEAU - Detecting mountain goats in their habitat is the topic of the next Evening at Egan Lecture: "Remote Sensing of Mountain Goats in Southeast Alaska," by Mark Riley. A remote sensing specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, Riley will share results of a joint study with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on locating mountain goats with infrared and digital aerial imagery on at 7 tonight in the Egan Lecture Hall at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Riley also is an adjunct faculty at UAS. He supports the remote sensing program for the Chugach and Tongass National Forests. In a joint effort with state wildlife biologists, Riley embarked on a project to locate goats in their steep habitat with digital cameras and thermal infra-red to detect heat signatures from goats.

The goal is to "create a visual record of the goats and their habitat," Riley said. The data may be used for a report on potential effects on mountain goats of recreational activities such as heliskiing, recreational hiking and hunting guiding.

Researchers used a high end digital camera modified to trigger at certain time intervals. It was mounted on a small aircraft along with a thermal sensor that picks up the heat from the bodies of mountain goats. The study concludes that the digital camera is more reliable than the heat sensor to detect goats in their habitat.

"The results of the study were enough to encourage further work," Riley said.

For example, mountain goats are so well insulated that in snowy conditions, they blend with the landscape to create conditions known as thermal contrast and thermal loading. "This shows they are well designed for this climate from a remote sensing perspective," Riley said.

The Evening at Egan lecture series is held every Friday at 7 p.m. through Nov. 21. The Sept. 26 lecture will be "Renaissance Utopian Thinking and Genocide: Why is it still Relevant?" by Nina Chordas, assistant professor of English at the University of Alaska Southeast. Visit the Evening at Egan Web site for all scheduled lectures.

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