Of Drones and Raccoon Dogs
A quick blog post to report that we're launching a new project in the MacIntosh Lab aimed at studying the tanuki (the Japanese word for raccoon dog) invasion on Yakushima island!
One of the official titles of this research is "Small carnivore community and infectious disease dynamics on Yakushima Island involving invasive raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides): a pilot study". But the general idea is to figure out how many tanuki are around the protected (and unprotected eventually) forests of the island, what they're eating, what are they infected with and whether they're spreading nasty parasites and pathogens around to native fauna, and in general what kind of an impact they have on the ecosystem.
Yakushima is considered a unique and sensitive ecosystem, and many parts of it are listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. We'll be starting in the western coastal forest where most of the primate research has been going on for many decades. Here's a look at our sampling area.
The project was originally envisioned by myself and Kasia for Kasia's application for a government scholarship (MEXT); for which she was successful! Congratulations, Kasia, and welcome to the team! But Kenneth has joined us so we're growing even before we've had any boots on the ground.
On that, the three of us head to Yakushima this Wednesday to get things started. One of the key elements of the project is that survey work will be aided by a drone with thermal imaging capacity. We hope this bit of tech can help us locate and track tanuki. We had a chance to take a test flight the other day in Inuyama.
Kenneth, Zhihong and Kasia (left to right) look on as the Matrice 300RTK equipped with a Zenmuse H20T thermal camera takes flight
We'll try to keep the blog updated as best we can regarding this project!