Hacking the environment: bringing biodiversity hardware into the open

Feb 11, 2014
This is a complete unit monitoring the environment in the Wildlife Garden of the Natural History Museum, London. Credit: Ed Baker

New technologies are changing the way we collect biodiversity data. Data that once required taking expensive, bulky and fragile equipment on field trips can now be collected on cheap, compact and robust devices. In a recent paper in the Biodiversity Data Journal the construction of an environmental data-logger using the Arduino platform is described. It is hoped that this work will encourage the adoption of new data collection technologies by biodiversity scientists and foster new collaborations with both electronics hobbyists and electronics engineers who have an interest in biodiversity.

The Arduino platform (a microcontroller device designed to make interactive prototypes at low cost) provides a low-cost and customizable alternative to expensive proprietary data loggers and sensors. We increasingly rely on to collect the data at the core of our science, in particular the network of biological recorders who provide much of our knowledge on the changing distribution of species. Many of these people are interested in using technology to maximize the value of the data they collect, but don't have the financial or technological resources to make full use of the opportunities technology provides. Projects such as the one described here will enable wider access to the latest technologies.

In recent years science has made use of increasingly large datasets, from the global collection of specimen and observation data in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) to monitoring changes in habitat and vegetation using data from satellites. Technologies such as those described here will add value to traditional biodiversity studies, and increase their use in aiding us to understand species and how their interact with their environment.

"The introduction of easy-to-use micro-controller devices such as the Arduino brought working with digital electronics to a broader audience," comments the author Ed Baker. "There is great potential for the biodiversity community if we collaborate with knowledgeable 'hackers' and 'makers' as citizen engineers in the same way we interact with knowledgeable amateur natural historians as citizen scientists."

Explore further: Building global biodiversity knowledge through open access data

More information: Baker E (2014) Open source data logger for low-cost environmental monitoring. Biodiversity Data Journal 2: e1059. DOI: 10.3897/BDJ.2.e1059

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peer review option proposed for biodiversity data

Oct 25, 2012

Data publishers should have the option of submitting their biodiversity datasets for peer review, according to a discussion paper commissioned by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

Recommended for you

Sharks contain more pollutants than polar bears

21 hours ago

The polar bear is known for having alarmingly high concentrations of PCB and other pollutants. But researchers have discovered that Greenland sharks store even more of these contaminants in their bodies.

Moth study suggests hidden climate change impacts

Apr 15, 2014

A 32-year study of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that scientists may be underestimating the impacts of climate change on animals and plants because much of the harm is hidden from view.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.