Science and Technology

Winged Cassandras

| Updated on September 12, 2021

French ornithologist Frederic Jiguet is using tagged migratory birds to serve as tsunami alarms

Things haven’t changed much from the time miners carried canaries into the earth’s depths as a warning system — the feathered creatures were the first to die in case of a carbon monoxide leak, giving the humans time to scramble outside to safety. Today we may have highly sophisticated instruments to sense danger, but we still turn to birds and animals for help.

The Kivi Kuaka project, led by French ornithologist Frederic Jiguet, wants to use migratory birds to warn of an impending tsunami in the Pacific. Jiguet has fit 56 birds of five species with sophisticated animal tracking tags. These tags send data to the International Space Station, which relays them back to Earth.

The project taps into the ability of birds to hear the low-frequency infrasounds that humans can’t hear.

Each event — storms, tsunamis, lightning, aeroplanes and so on — emits its own distinct infrasounds. In the case of tsunamis, these sounds travel much faster than the tsunami itself, and the birds pick them up early.

Jiguet’s team intends to tag hundreds of birds, making them avian sentinels against tsunamis. Of course, the project is still experimental, but Jiguet shrugs off worries of failure. Even if the birds couldn’t give a tsunami warning, they would still give plenty of data to aid other scientific research. In today’s warming world, conservation is nearly impossible without knowing where the birds are going, what they are doing.

Published on September 12, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor