Unmanned aerial vehicles assesses quality of habitat for pygmy rabbit in Idaho
WATCH | video of aerial habitat survey
Researchers from Boise State University are using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to remotely sense the quality of habitat characteristics in Idaho's sagebrush steppe ecosystems, which is home to the pygmy rabbit, Brachylagus idahoensis. BSU assistant biology professor Jennifer Forbey and her research team are surveying the quantity and nutritional quality of Idaho's sagebrush habitat for pygmy rabbits.
Natural-color and thermal cameras mounted on the small aircraft transmit real-time video to a ground control unit equipped with recorders.
The data gathered in this research may allow land managers at the BLM and other agencies to target efforts to conserve and restore habitat.
BLM-Idaho is collaborating with Dr. Forbey's pygmy rabbit and sage-grouse research, including arranging permissions for use of UAVs over study areas.
"Dr. Forbey's lab and graduate students are engaged in some cutting edge work," says BLM wildlife biologist Paul Makela. "The data they're gathering helps us better understand how pygmy rabbits and sage-grouse select sagebrush to eat, and the relationship between sagebrush chemistry and palatability. It's fascinating work."