Swiss Botanist Studies Southern California Wildlife Using HPWREN-Connected SMER Camera
When Rolf Baumberger, a biology researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, studies southern California wildlife, he no longer has to buy a plane ticket to San Diego. Instead, he logs onto a computer. Together with Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve Director Claudia Luke, Education and Outreach Coordinator Adrienne Marriott, and Student Conservation Association Intern Maria Wiehe, Baumberger will use camera stations developed in collaboration with HPWREN at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve to determine the role of hummingbirds, bees, and moths in the pollination of bush monkey flower, Mimulus aurantiacus.
Bush monkey flower subspecies have several different flower colors in the area: red, orange and yellow. Baumberger has studied bush monkey flowers in southern California since 1995, and he would like to know why the flower color distribution of this species is changing so quickly. Individual examples of the yellow subspecies have altered their size and color in as little as six years. "What I saw is astonishing," says Baumberger, "This zone is moving as much as half a mile per year. It is a phenomenon which has not been described before."
Initially, the project will address hummingbirds as pollinators because they are easily tracked with a motion detector. Every hour of the day, a camera photographs pots of bush monkey flower representing each color of subspecies as they grow and bloom - as well as a hummingbird feeder, as it encourages the hummingbirds to feed at the camera's location. From Switzerland, Baumberger can observe the flowers' rates of growth and see how often the hummingbirds feed at the site. Once the flowers bloom, the feeder will be removed, and Baumberger's team will begin observing the hummingbirds' decisions about which color of flower to feed from. This data will help him track the rate of hybridization among these California subspecies.
The SMER cameras, installed in collaboration with HPWREN, collect real-time data that will help Baumberger study this new phenomenon. The cameras connect this remote valley to HPWREN's 45 Mbps backbone and allow researchers to access real-time field data from a computer connection anywhere. Now that high-resolution still cameras are available as Internet accessible hosts, the new technologies outperform collected video image quality by a wide margin. Delivering more than three megapixels per image, the connection of the camera to the Internet allows to capture the wing of a hummingbird in flight. Such precise detail provides data that field researchers can use from their offices, wherever they may be.
Photographs regarding the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve's connection to HPWREN are available at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Photos/sites.html#SMER.
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