A new smartphone app allows bird watchers to share sightings with scientists straight from the field.
Gathered by bird watchers around the world, eBird data is used by biologists, land managers and ornithologists to track avian populations trends. According to eBird’s program overview, these millions of hobbyist observations “will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.”
Union Pacific, the nation’s largest railroad company, says a new software program deployed throughout its network can now predict certain kinds of derailments days or weeks before they are likely to occur, improving safety and potentially avoiding millions of dollars in damages. The company moves some 900 trains per day, including 175 per day in its central north-south corridor.
Union Pacific first started using acoustic sensors 10 years ago to transmit noises from vibrations of ball bearings in train wheels back to a control center that can communicate directly with engineers on board the trains. This allows the company to get trains off the track at the earliest convenient opportunity (for example after a load is delivered and the car returns to a terminal), but before a faulty bearing causes a derailment. More recently, the company started using visual sensors that can detect when wheels begin to flatten–another factor that can cause an problem on the rails.