Friday, October 29, 2010

Members Of The Public To Research Bird, Bat And Insect Aerobatics

Researchers of Wageningen University are going to involve the general public in scientific research into the way in which birds, insects and even seeds fly. The enthusiastic team led by researcher, David Lentink, will invest more than one hundred thousand euros in purchasing extreme high-speed video cameras, so that anyone who is interested can record in detail the flight movements that occur in the natural environment. The team won the final of the Annual Dutch Academic Award last Wednesday.

The Flight Artists team will be asking nature lovers, artists, hobby photographers and other interested members of the public to use the newest, high-speed video techniques to shoot images of flying birds, insects and bats, and also of maple and linden seeds as they spiral to the ground. In the run-up to the final of the Annual Academic Prize, more than 700 people registered their interest. High-speed recordings made with infrared light, countless special lenses, lamps and field facilities can show details that are invisible to the naked eye; invisible, either because they are too far away or, more likely, because they are too rapid for the observer. The fastest speed with High Definition quality is 7500 images per second, which is 300 times faster than with an ordinary camera. The resulting detail reveals Nature’s mastery of aerobatics in such a way that the seemingly simple flight movements of a house sparrow are converted into a spectacular show.

Life in the Dutch natural environment suddenly becomes something out of the ordinary. Thus, scientists working in a newly created discipline become involved with non-professionals while the latter earn, with their unique images, their place in science. Ordinary people can make spectacular movies that are up to now exclusively available to professional BBC documentary makers.

These images will be freely available on the special website, and via You Tube for both scientific researchers and the general public.

The team leader David Lentink brought together six students, four colleagues and other enthusiastic people in order to make the Flight Artists project a success. Winning the Annual Dutch Academic Award was therefore a team effort.

David Lentink graduated cum laude two years ago with his thesis on aerobatics in birds and insects and on the swimming skills of fish. Because his materials were so attractive, they were used for the covers of Nature and Science, the leading scientific journals who published his work. The National Police Services Agency (KLPD) is supporting the Flight Artists project.

In a spectacular final of the Fifth Annual Dutch Academic Award on Wednesday evening 27 October, the jury chose the Flying Artists team from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, as the winner. In 2005, the team City of Insects, led by Wageningen professor Marcel Dicke, won the very first Annual Dutch Academic Award.

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