In the morning, Anna and I gave a lecture about what sort of questions biologists can answer using remote and optical sensing techniques. After this introduction, we went to the nearby nature reserve where Mikkel had two monitoring experiments prepared.
Both setups consisted of a telescope, black termination box, and high frequency sampler (for wing beat detection), but differed from one another in that one made use of a quadrant detector with three spectral bands, which allows to estimate insect flight trajectories, while the other one was connected to a spectrophotometer for detailed colour assessment. These setups are attractive alternatives to the expensive laser radar equipment previously applied by our team for insect monitoring and can thus be used even by laboratories with less funding.
The course participants got to take an active part in each step of the monitoring exercise, from the calibration of the instruments, interpretation of the data signals, to the catching and releasing of insects. After a hot but successful field exercise, we all went back to the university building to start a data analysis exercise. The course finished at 5pm, after which we gathered for a photo session outside. The activity got considerable local attention. The local newspaper will be covering the event monitoring and a passing high school teacher spontaneously brought his class to visit the experiment and let the students ask questions on the topic. In the next weeks, we will evaluate the data that we recorded during the day and share this with the park officials and all people that took part in the course. We think that the biologists and physicists that participated in this workshop found it useful and interesting to see how something like this can be carried out in practice, and this made it a rewarding experience all around. Greetings from Stellenbosch!