Researchers use weather radar to track migrating waterfowl, avian influenza

Researchers use weather radar to track migrating waterfowl, avian influenza.
University of Delaware researchers are part of an effort that will use weather radar to identify wetland hotspots used by waterfowl during the winter, which in turn can alert poultry growers about the potential risk of avian influenza to their farms.
UD is partnering with the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on the research, which will study wetlands in the Central Valley of California during the winter.
By identifying where waterfowl are in the valley, waterfowl biologists from USGS are able to take samples from the birds to look for prevalence of avian influenza, helping to build pathogen risk models for the poultry industry in the region.
Buler’s lab group is processing the radar data for the project and mapping where the waterfowl are on the ground in relation to poultry farms.
The lab at UD is unique in that it’s practically the only active lab using weather radar data to map bird distributions at the ground level.
Buler said the hope is for the technology now being used in California to one day be utilized in the Delmarva region.
Another component of the project is that the researchers can compare the data they are collecting to the data they collected during a previous effort in California, looking at waterfowl distributions from 1995 to 2007 that were closely tied to the availability of water.
If there is an outbreak of avian influenza and they’re very concentrated, it can quickly spread," Buler said.
"We’re interested in looking at how the drought is affecting their populations and also the distributions throughout the valley in addition to being concerned about the spread of avian influenza," Buler said.

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