Studying animals isn't easy. Some can be shy and aggressive around humans, whereas others can become habituated to human presence, which can be dangerous for people and animals alike. And then there's the fact that animals don't always "act natural" around us. So researchers have developed a number of ways to go about their work without disrupting the natural world. One example is the "penguin rover," a robot that made headlines this week when researchers released a study, and a video of the rover approaching adult emperor penguins and their offspring.
As adorable as the rover is, it's just the latest attempt by researchers to go undercover and infiltrate nature.
- Condor puppet A condor "mother" puppet was used to rear chicks at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. [Credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park]
- Robosquirrel Robotic squirrel designed to help researchers learn how predators (snakes) and prey interact and respond to each other [Credit: Sanjay Joshi, UC Davis]
- Chicken robot This robot doesn't look like a chicken, but the baby chicks at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne follow it around like its their mother anyway. [Credit: J. Halloy]
- Crocodile airboat Roboticists at Carnegie Mellon University developed this airboat to monitor Hippopotamus dung in Kenya's Mara River. Having a boat that looks like a croc is helpful because hippos usually tolerate the presence of crocodiles. [Credit: Platypus LLC}
- Female sage grouse robot A robot designed to help researchers study the mating habits of the sage grouse. The lead researcher refers to it as a "fembot." [Credit: Gail Patricelli]
- Whooping crane hand puppet Researchers use crane costumes to rear young cranes. [Credit: International Crane Foundation]
- Robird Clear Flight Solutions creates robots that look like birds of prey. They are used to scare birds away at airports, near waste management facilities, and in agricultural settings. [Credit: Clear Flight Solutions]
- Zebrafish robots Robotic fish developed by the "ASSISIbf" project. Scientists developed these fish in the hope that they might integrate in schools of fish. [Credit: LSRO EPFL]
- Penguin rover A rover equipped with a camera and camouflaged with an emperor chick model [Credit: Credit: Le Maho et al., Nature Methods]