In recent years, application of remote sensing to marine mammal surveys has been a promising area of investigation for wildlife managers and researchers. In April 2006, the United States and Russia conducted an aerial survey of Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) using thermal infrared sensors to detect groups of animals resting on pack ice in the Bering Sea. The goal of this survey was to estimate the size of the Pacific walrus population. An initial analysis of the U.S. data using previously-established methods resulted in lower detectability of walrus groups in the imagery and higher variability in calibration models than was expected based on pilot studies. This paper describes an improved procedure for detection and enumeration of walrus groups in airborne thermal imagery. Thermal images were first subdivided into smaller 200 x 200 pixel "tiles." We calculated three statistics to represent characteristics of walrus signatures from the temperature histogram for each the. Tiles that exhibited one or more of these characteristics were examined further to determine if walrus signatures were present. We used cluster analysis on tiles that contained walrus signatures to determine which pixels belonged to each group. We then calculated a thermal index value for each walrus group in the imagery and used generalized linear models to estimate detection functions (the probability of a group having a positive index value) and calibration functions (the size of a group as a function of its index value) based on counts from matched digital aerial photographs. The new method described here improved our ability to detect walrus groups at both 2 m and 4 m spatial resolution. In addition, the resulting calibration models have lower variance than the original method. We anticipate that the use of this new procedure will greatly improve the quality of the population estimate derived from these data. This procedure may also have broader applicability to thermal infrared surveys of other wildlife species. Published by Elsevier B.V.
Additional Publication Details
An improved procedure for detection and enumeration of walrus signatures in airborne thermal imagery
International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation