An expensive infrared camera stolen from one of UM’s biology research labs in September is still out there somewhere.
The camera, valued at almost $15,000, went missing over the weekend of Sept. 7 and was reported to UMPD Sept. 11.
“It’s a total drag for us, because it was one of the key instruments that we used this spring and summer. It really generated a lot of data for us,” said Art Woods, a biology professor at UM and head of the laboratory that held the camera.
Woods, who specializes in eco-physiology, said uses for the camera in the lab included documenting temperature changes among insects. Woods’ lab website lists exploring “the effects of climate change on insects” as one of the two main research projects.
Although the camera hadn’t gotten much use this semester, according to Woods, he was preparing to lend it to a graduate student for her own research.
“I took her into the lab to show her the camera, and that’s when I discovered it was gone,” he said.
As of Oct. 1, Woods had not received any update from UMPD regarding the camera. He submitted insurance documents for a replacement the same day. Because each camera is built on request, he doesn’t expect a replacement for the laboratory for at least another two months.
In an email, UMPD Chief Marty Ludemann said the case is still ongoing. Because there was still an active investigation into the theft, Ludemann said he could not comment on the matter.
The camera, an FLIR T540, has multiple functions and capabilities for capturing thermal images that make it useful for Woods’ research. A description on the FLIR website shows a price tag of $14,995.
Woods described the camera as unique. Unlike other thermal imaging cameras in his laboratory, it was compact and manageable in the field. Its portability made it advantageous for UM scientists but, unfortunately, also ideal for theft.
While in the lab, the camera remained under lock and key. Woods says the thief had to both obtain a key and evade staff within the biology research building.
Although the instrument was crucial for lab work, he says there is still plenty of work that can be done without it.
“We have plenty to write and analyze for now,” Woods said. “The crisis will be if we can’t replace [the camera] before this next spring.”