While wind turbines serve as instruments for renewable energy, it’s alarming how many birds and bats are getting killed by the turbine blades.
As his lab manager digs through the pigeon’s liver to find a shiny maroon piece, Todd Katzner, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, a federal organization devoted to environmental science, aims to learn something from this tragic incidents.
According to The Atlantic, scientists are collecting the dead bodies of bats and birds. Samples like liver and meat are typically frozen, categorized, and kept in freezers. The rest of the body is thrown away, and the feathers are packaged in paper envelopes and filed. The samples can be processed and submitted to other labs that perform genetic analysis or toxicology testing when required for the study.
Environmental impact of birds killed by wind turbines
Hundreds of thousands of birds perish annually in collisions with turbine blades and other equipment at renewable energy installations, where the majority of the bird carcasses that arrive at the Boise lab have been shipped from.
According to Mark Davis, a conservation biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, clean energy initiatives are crucial for addressing climate change. But he also stresses how essential it is to lessen their impact on wildlife. “I’m in favor of new renewable energy initiatives. Additionally, let’s make every effort to preserve biodiversity,” states Davis in Wired.
Katzner, Davis, and other biologists are collaborating with the renewable energy sector to establish a national repository for dead birds and bats killed at wind and solar plants to achieve this goal. According to Davis, the carcasses include information about the animals’ lives and deaths that scientists and project managers might use to understand better how to lessen the environmental impact of clean-energy installations.
Lacks of funds
The repository needs consistent financing and assistance from commercial partners to provide the specimens. However, Davis says, the collection’s potential is much expanded. He, Katzner, and the other biologists anticipate that the carcasses will allow a variety of wildlife researchers to acquire the animal samples they require for their studies and potentially even shed light on unanswered scientific concerns in the future.
Katzner went on to co-publish a report in 2007 in which the researchers used a technique to match feather samples with the appropriate bird species when visual identifications were challenging. The researchers genetically analyzed naturally lost feathers. He then used deer corpses to entice and trap golden eagles throughout the East Coast to study their migration routes. He is currently testing carcasses for lead and other poisons to determine whether birds are exposed to toxicants.
Katzner has studied birds’ interactions with energy facilities like wind and solar plants for the past ten years. Studies conducted at this time have suggested that these facilities in the U.S. cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds each year.
That still only represents a small portion of the millions of birds that are believed to be killed annually due to habitat degradation, subsequent climate change, and other effects of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. However, the use of renewable energy is expanding quickly, and scientists are working to understand how this growth can impact animals, as reported by TWI Global.
A few businesses are testing mechanization as a potential strategy to lower mortality at their operations while scientists strive to get more data. A revolving camera that resembles R2-D2 on stilts has been erected by the utility Duke Energy at a wind farm in Wyoming. The system, dubbed IdentiFlight, uses artificial intelligence to recognize birds and quickly shut down turbines to prevent crashes.
Needs More Data
Due to inadequate data on the population size and distribution of avian animals, biologists claim that there are still unanswered questions regarding the effectiveness of these types of technology.
Katzner and his coworkers aim to use the repository to help change this, but they first need long-term funding to expand their network of collaborators and personnel. For just his university, Davis figures he will need between $1 million and $2 million to construct a viable repository.
It would be ideal if the USGS component of the project in Boise had its building. Currently, Katzner keeps feathers in a room serving as a conference room for the USGS. The walls of the room next door, punctuated by a low hum, are covered in freezers. Some have previously cataloged samples. Some others are holding black trash bags containing dead birds and bats merely waiting to be processed.
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