Ecology lab studies birds to deter airfield accidents

  • Posted: Monday, October 28, 2013 12:11 a.m.

The University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is working on an acoustic hailing device to disperse birds from unwanted locations.

Professors began the project this summer. Their efforts are to protect airfield environments from bird-strike hazards. According to the Federal Aviation Administration – or FAA – there were more than 10,000 bird-aircraft collisions in 2011.

“This project was started this summer with the capture and marking of nearly 100 vultures on the SRS,” said Larry Bryan from the ecology lab. “Twenty of these received satellite transmitters which will allow us to study their movements and see what is ‘normal’ for them.”

Birds included in the process include vultures, ducks, gulls and blackbirds. Professors are hoping to mark at least 100 more birds in the spring. Next summer, they will bait the birds to one or more sites and test the device, which is called the HS-18 HyperSpike.

“These sound treatments will likely consist of up to 10 minutes of high-level sound followed by two minutes of silence, which will extend for up to an hour,” said Bryan. “The device was designed for long-range communication and has a lot of military applications.”

Another point of interest for the scientists is how the birds will respond to the sound.

“Do they leave? Do they eventually return? If so, how long does it take?” asked Bryan. “That is why we wanted to mark as many birds as possible, to be able to see if known (marked) birds are returning.”

The data received from the study will be used to assist the FAA in determining the utility of the devices. It will then assist airport managers with reducing risks of bird collisions with aircraft.

The device is a cooperative project with USDA Wildlife Services, with FAA backing. Many of the studies are being conducted at SRS, but there are also study components at Bush Field and the Three Rivers Landfill.

Others included in the study are Dr. Gene Rhodes, Dr. Jim Beasley, Bobby Kennamer and Amanda Holland (a graduate student) who are all from the ecology laboratory. From USDA Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center are Dr. Travis DeVault, Dr. Brad Blackwell and Dr. Tom Seaman.

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.

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