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Data from: Spot size, distance, and emissivity errors in field applications of infrared thermography


Tattersall, Glenn; Playà-Montmany, Núria (2021), Data from: Spot size, distance, and emissivity errors in field applications of infrared thermography, Dryad, Dataset,


Infrared thermography is increasingly emerging as an analytical approach within the thermal ecology research community, providing unique and rapid temperature information crucial to understanding how plants and animals exchange heat with their environment. What is difficult to appreciate are the numerous ways in which thermography may still yield inaccurate (i.e., deviation from the “correct” value) information if certain tenets are not followed. 

In this paper, we examine, demonstrate, and discuss these tenets with an aim to provide methodological advice to ecologists interested in employing thermography.  

We found that spot size and distance strongly influenced the surface temperature estimates of known, calibrated temperature sources, with similar results observed in maximum eye temperature measurements in wild birds. We also report on how the angle of incidence affects the apparent emissivity of various biological surfaces (fur, feather, skin, leaves), another source of uncertainty in thermography.  

The variation in temperature caused by variation in distance and uncertainty in emissivity are large enough to raise flags for field applications of thermography where accuracy is necessary but control over study subjects is limited. Since accurate emissivity and distance parameters are crucial to thermography calculations, our results should serve as a framework to assist ecologists in better experimental design with respect to the use of thermography.