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30 June 2008



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Ground-breaking technology that will enable biologists to identify and monitor large numbers of endangered animals, from butterflies to whales, without being captured, will be shown to the public for the first time at this year's Royal Society Summer Science exhibition. The Royal Society Summer Science exhibition is the premier annual showcase for scientific excellence in the UK, and runs from 30 June to 3 July at the Royal Society in London. 

Tested at Bristol Zoo, the system is now deployed to monitor penguin numbers and penguin behaviour at Robben Island, South Africa. The research advances techniques that originated in computer vision and human biometrics in order to help field biology and to better understand and conserve endangered species, in particular, the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus).

Dr Tilo Burghardt, RCUK Fellow in Exabyte Informatics in the Department of Computer Science at Bristol University, said: "We believe the new technology developed will enable biologists to identify and monitor large numbers of diverse species cheaply, quickly and automatically."

Peter Barham, Professor of Physics at Bristol University and penguin fanatic, who originated the project added: "Once achieved, these systems will revolutionise the precision, quantity and quality of population data available to ecologists and conservationists. There will also be an animal welfare benefit since there is no need to expose the animals to the stress of capture, or side-effects of being marked."

The work is currently on exhibition at the Royal Society's summer exhibition, and was featured last Saturday on BBC's breakfast news, as well as on the BBC website.

For more information, see spotthepenguin.com.