During this week, I actually got to use the thermal camera! It’s super cool to just look at the thermal output from things I would never have imagined was detectable. This includes tracking footprints from the thermal signature left by our feet, the heat given off by the switch panels in CST, tracking living things such as squirrels and people, and trying to identify factors that effect the thermal signature of humans. Thick clothing seems to obfuscate heat, making other places seem to give off more heat. For example when my friend was without a coat, their face registered as 87 degrees F (on the surface) and torso around 82 F, whereas with a coat, torso was practically indistinguishable from ambient temperature (Ok maybe +10, but my point being that coats reduced heat output. I forgot to record this data precisely.), and their head warmed up to 92 +-2 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m still unclear on which birds exactly we will study, and will probably leave that decision to the ecologists in Iceland and perhaps Erin (if she has a preference). Once we know that, it might be possible to more accurately model the birds with maybe a local animal with similar insulative properties and heat output, but that remains to be seen…
In the mean time, I’ve tried to track squirrels with only a thermal camera and my success was very limited. The first problem was that it is hard to find a fixed focus at which the squirrel appears sharp. This might be fixed with the balloon-tether idea which would yield a fixed height from the ground and thus static focal range. However most pressing was the battery life on the camera. I had trouble getting 5 minutes out of the device. If this is standard, we might need to design a new battery, and if it’s a result of slow degradation of the battery, maybe we should purchase a new one. Next week I’ll be sure to post pics of us looking for small animals and how well that works!
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