S3-1.5 Friday, Jan. 4 Applications of Thermal Infrared Imaging in Field Biology HRISTOV, N.I.*; BETKE, M.; KUNZ, T.H.; Boston University, Boston; Boston University, Boston; Boston University, Boston email@example.com
Knowledge of where, how, and why organisms behave in their natural environment is an important element of biological investigation. Advanced imaging tools and computer vision analyses have been an integral part of this quest. Yet, in spite of recent advances in digital video, still photography, and high-speed videography, techniques for the imaging of nocturnal behavior of organisms remain limited. The latest application of thermal infrared imaging in biological research has revolutionized our ability to observe and document the behavior of free-ranging organisms. Unlike traditional imaging approaches that require visible light, thermal infrared imaging relies on the inherent emission of heat energy from objects in the environment. Temperature-sensitive cameras detect differences in thermal values in their fields of view and represent that information visually as different brightness values. Here we present examples of the successful application of thermal imaging from some of our ongoing studies of bat ecology and behavior that serve as models for the use of this technology in these and other animal systems. We describe the use of thermal imaging for individual detection and behavioral observation of nocturnal activity, thermometric analysis of flight and roosting energetics, censusing of large bat colonies and 3D kinematic analysis of bat-moth predator-prey interactions. Each example will be discussed in the context of challenges associated with the use of traditional techniques and the solutions provided by thermal infrared imaging. This new technology represents an effective method for the qualitative and quantitative study of animal ecology and physiology and is especially suitable for low-light applications. As such it is at the forefront of the effort to probe the next frontier – the aerosphere.