Jeremiah Horrocks Winter Lecture: Astro-Ecology
“Astro-Ecology”: using astrophysics research techniques to help tackle challenges facing the planet
Abstract: I will describe how we are using astrophysics research techniques to help ecologists protect ecosystems, save critically endangered animal species, and stop peat forest fires that are a major contributor to climate change. Building on technological and software innovations in astronomy, our “Astro-Ecology” team have developed a drone plus thermal infrared imaging system and an associated automated detection and identification pipeline that provides a cost-effective and efficient way to automatically detect animals and peat fires. I will describe the current status of the system and our efforts to enable local communities to run routine monitoring and management of animal populations and peat fires over large and inhospitable areas, and thereby tackle global biodiversity loss and climate change. I will finish by showing the video of our team’s work which was presented at COP26.
Brief bio: Steve is a Professor of Astrophysics within the Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) and head of the ARI’s Astro-Ecology group at Liverpool John Moores University. His astrophysics research aims to understand how the Universe evolves over cosmic time to produce the spectacular variety of stars, planets and life we see today. In particular, he is interested in understanding how clouds of gas in space collapse to form star systems, and how changes in these gas clouds might alter the way in which stars, planets and ultimately life may evolve. Steve also has a keen interest in applying astronomical techniques to tackle problems a little closer to home, such as conservation of endangered species, helping search and rescue teams identify the optimal way to find people, or trying to stop peat fires that are a major contributor to climate change. Steve did his masters at Durham University in the UK and his PhD in Sydney, Australia, before moving to the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the USA to take up an SMA Fellowship. He then moved to the European Southern Observatory in Munich as an ESO ALMA Fellow before joining Liverpool John Moores University in 2013.