New Brunswick

Google camera maps Johnson's Mills Shorebird Reserve

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is collecting 360-degree images of the Johnson's Mills Shorebird Reserve in a project that will give people around the world an up-close look at thousands of birds.

Nature Conservancy of Canada is collecting images of the shorebird reserve using the Google Trekker device

Hilary Mann, wearing the Google Trekker, stands next to Luc Thomas, the manager of digital services with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Mann will be using the Google Trekker to map the Johnson's Mills Shorebird Reserve. (Lindsay Michael/CBC)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is collecting 360-degree images of the Johnson's Mills Shorebird Reserve in a project that will give people around the world an up-close look at thousands of birds.

The organization's staff will walk the trails and mudflats of Johnson's Mills on the Bay of Fundy wearing the Google Trekker camera.

The Trekker is a 22-kilogram backpack topped by what looks like a big green soccer ball.

The device contains 15 camera lenses and shoots pictures every 2.5 seconds.

Once the images are collected, they will be compiled by Google and, if all goes well, they will be available on Google Street View in about three months.

Trekker is used to capture images that can't be reached by the usual Google Street View vehicles.

This is the first of five natural areas in Canada that the Nature Conservancy hopes to capture with this technology.

Other areas include the native grasslands at the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area in Saskatchewan, Horseshoe Canyon in the Canadian Badlands in Alberta and the coastal forests in Chase Woods in British Columbia.

Andrew Holland, the Atlantic spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, said Johnson's Mills is a great place to begin this high-tech view of nature.

He said 75 per cent of the world's population of semipalmated sandpipers are at Johnson's Mills at this time of year, along with other species of shorebirds.

The birds stay for roughly three weeks to eat and prepare for their long migration flight south.

The team is hoping to capture images of these birds during their walks to share with the public through Google. Though, Holland said, they will be careful to not get too close to the birds while they are capturing the images so the birds aren't disturbed.

Luc Thomas, the manager of digital services with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has left his Toronto office to operate the Google Trekker and oversee the technical elements of the New Brunswick project.

He said the organization approached Google with the idea to capture these images in nature.

Thomas said Google sent up the Trekker along with an online tutorial on how to operate the equipment.

"We're really looking forward to capturing all these images so people can see them through Google Maps, maybe just to give them an idea of what they can see when they come and visit," he said.

"But also for the people that are not able to come and visit."

Hilary Mann, a shorebird interpreter at Johnson's Mills, wore the backpack to capture images, calling the device "surprisingly comfy."

She's excited to be part of the project.

"It's a fabulous place out here and it's great to be able to share it with people all around the world who will be able to look at it on Google," she said.

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