Animals are flourishing in one of the world’s most unusual wildlife sanctuaries: a 1,000-mile area around the Chernobyl nuclear power station that was evacuated after the plant exploded and melted down in 1986.
Now, thanks to 42 motion-sensitive cameras, we’re getting a closer look at the different species that call this no-man’s land home, such as their ranges, travel patterns, even what they eat.
The camera traps are part of a five-year project called TREE (Transfer, Exposure, Effects) that is monitoring the impacts of radiation exposure on the area’s wildlife.
The project is a joint effort of the University of Salford and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, both in the United Kingdom, and the Ukraine-based Chornobyl Center.
Researchers are aiming to double the number of cameras in the coming year. “We hope to use these data to evaluate whether differences in radiation levels affect population sizes,” said Salford University professor Mike Wood, TREE’s project leader, and “reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to humans and wildlife from exposure to environmental radioactivity.”
The additional camera data will also allow TREE to select the species best suited for carrying radio collars that have been tricked out to measure and record radiation levels as they move around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They expect to select the species by 2016.