X-SIG: Wilson and Students Awarded $10k Grant to Use Drones to Track Bird Song Patterns

Professor Wilson's X-SIG students (from left to right) McKenzie Somers, Lauren Sherman, Marisa Immordino, and Precious Ozoh after passing their FAA Remote Pilot Test (Photo courtesy of Andy Wilson).

Professor Andrew Wilson’s X-SIG students (from left to right) McKenzie Somers, Lauren Sherman, Marisa Immordino, and Precious Ozoh after passing their FAA Remote Pilot Test (Photo courtesy of Professor Andrew Wilson)

By Nicole DeJacimo, Assistant News Editor

This summer, four Gettysburg students have stayed on campus with Dr. Andrew Wilson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, as part of the X-SIG summer research program to study birds in the battlefields of Gettysburg. They have been awarded a $10,000 external grant to fund their research tracking birds with drones.

“The grant,” Wilson said, “will be used to purchase one (possibly 2) quadcopter drones, a specialized multispectral camera for mapping vegetation, and software for creating 3 dimensional images from photos.”

These drones will become a key resource for student capstones in the Environmental Studies department.

Wilson, along with Lauren Sherman ‘21, McKenzie Somers ’20, Precious Ozoh ’20, and Marisa Immordino ’20, are using new drone technology to “record bird songs and calls” because “drones allow quick and easy access to terrain that can be inaccessible on foot,” Wilson said. 

According to their research, which will be presented at a conference in Alaska, the drones are small and quiet enough that they don’t bother the birds or disrupt them from their normal habits. 

The X-SIG students keep running blogs about the group members and their findings. A blog post titled Timmy You’re Grounded, named after Timmy “The Drone” Turner notes, “[Wilson] is a huge advocate for citizen science and has been arrested for birding on three continents.”

The research team will continue their bird-tracking efforts after they compile their research data.

“It’s groundbreaking work, and the students and I hope to submit a methods paper to a scientific journal very soon,” Wilson said.

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Author: Nicole DeJacimo

Nicole DeJacimo ‘22 is a staff writer for The Gettysburgian who primarily writes for the features section. She is from the Jersey Shore and sings in Audeamus. She plans to major in Political Science and double minor in Music and Writing. Follow her on instagram @nicoledejacimo.

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