Professor Yale University New Haven, Connecticut, United States
As climate change transforms the biosphere, more comprehensive and biologically relevant measurements of fine-scale climatic conditions are urgently needed. Traditional climate measurements are constrained by geographically static, sparse, and biased sampling networks which limit both mechanistic understanding and predictive potential for short- and long-term ecological and climate forecasting at fine spatial scales. Satellites complement static sensors with spatially contiguous measurements over large extents, but usually only for surface conditions and with limited spatiotemporal detail. We illustrate how animal borne instruments (ABI), a rapidly growing suite of on-board sensors deployed alongside animal tracking technologies, provide a fundamental additional data type.
ABIs technologies can turn wild animals into mobile weather sensors that deliver fine-grain, biologically fine-tuned and relevant sampling of climatic conditions in support of ecological forecasting. Billions of fine-scale meteorological observations have already been collected by ABIs across more than a thousand species, mostly marine. We demonstrate the opportunities these growing data have for the intersection of biodiversity and climate science, including those enabled by a fusion of ABI measurements with in situ station data and remote sensing. We highlight a vast unrealized potential especially in terrestrial environments now becoming available due new small-tag technologies. Thousands of tagged animals worldwide could function as earth observers and environmental sentinels, and when integrated with other data streams have the potential to deliver spatially detailed and biologically informed measurements for climate and biological change research.