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Robots in Ecology: Welcome to the machine

David Grémillet, William Puech, Véronique Garçon, Thierry Boulinier, Yvon Le Maho.
Open Journal of Ecology, 2, 49-57. doi: 10.4236/oje.2012.22006.

Robots have primarily been developed for warfare, yet they also serve peaceful purposes. Their use in ecology is in its infancy, but they may soon become essential tools in a broad variety of ecological sub-disciplines. Autonomous robots, in particular drones sent to previously inaccessible areas, have revolutionized data acquisition, not only for abiotic parameters, but also for recording the behavior of undisturbed animals and collecting biological material. Robots will also play an essential role in population ecology, as they will allow for automatic census of individuals through image processing, or via detection of animals marked electronically. These new technologies will enable automated experimentation for increasingly large sample sizes, both in the laboratory and in the field. Finally, interactive robots and cyborgs are becoming major players in modern studies of animal behavior. Such rapid progress nonetheless raises ethical, environmental, and security issues.


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