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For habitat, the sky is the limit | Robb Diehl | TEDxBozeman

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To birds and other flying animals, the air above us is every bit a habitat as a forest or a stream. These “aerial habitats” are home to many thousands of species of birds, bats, and insects, but flying animals make challenging study subjects. They are usually small, and often fly quite high. Moreover, the airspace is big place, and its features - wind, temperature, humidity, air density - are largely invisible to us. Fortunately, the same radar systems that help meteorologists study and forecast the weather also reveal the movements of flying animals. After all, to a radar a bird is little more than a giant raindrop.As a professor in Mississippi, Robb directed a research program studying the biology of migratory birds. Since accepting his current position with the US Geological Survey in Bozeman, he has been exploring the hazards that birds and bats face from the accumulating effects of human development of the airspace. Wind turbines and certain forms of solar energy, which can burn birds and insects while in flight, represent difficult environmental trade-offs between minimizing impacts to wildlife while acting to stave off the more lasting effects of climate change. Unfortunately, flying animals make challenging study subjects. Their small size, nocturnal habits, and high altitude flight make direct observation difficult. So, Robb works to enable weather radars, thermal cameras, and other technologies that help reveal the behaviors of flying animals. This intersection of aerial biology, the threat of human development, and reliance on remote sensing methods describes the emerging field of aeroecology. Today, Robb might be considered an “aeroecologist”. He recognizes that the ecology of the airspace has more in common with the ecology of land and water than we ever imagined. Like land and water, the air above us supports great biodiversity and provides all the resources necessary to sustain life for animals that may remain in flight for months without landing. Robb also pursues the open question of whether current environmental law can be extended to allow for the protection of critical airspaces the way we protect critical land and water habitat.This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

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