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: Scientists say polar bears won't thrive on land food

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

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

Scientists say polar bears won't thrive on land food

8 hours ago

A group of researchers say polar bears forced off melting sea ice will not find enough food to replace their current diet of fat-laden marine mammals such as seals, a conclusion that contradicts studies indicating ...

Emu movements chronicled in seed dispersal project

10 hours ago

GPS technology attached to emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) has reinforced the role the world's second largest extant bird plays in dispersing seeds in the environment as well as indicate they have started ...

Pests are easier to combat in habitats rich in species

10 hours ago

A diverse and species-rich agricultural landscape is also beneficial to farmers. This isn't just because there are plenty of pollinating insects, creepy crawly pest controllers and other useful helpers. Scientists ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.