Nuclear physics used to track Australian waterbirds.
Australia's native birds are on the decline - those damn humans! Yes, we are destroying the planet and we have to do something about it. Obtaining data on bird numbers is paramount. Nuclear physics is the answer. Researchers are examining feathers recently dropped by waterbirds. It provides information on where birds have been and what they have eaten. The I-TRAX Core Scanner shows chemical changes over time. A mass spectrometer is also used to determine oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen isotopes.
Feathers are composed of keratin like hair. Water sources have different chemical composition. This is stored in the keratin, so a map can be created of where birds have been living. The method of feather analysis is much cheaper than leg banding or satellite tracking.
Members of the public can contribute. At present scientists are picking up feathers then posting them to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Anyone can do this to further the body of data on birds.
◆ Physics by Ty Buchanan ◆
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