January 9, 2006
Deep Canyon Desert Research Center establishes networked cameras and a Mobile Observation Unit
Agave Hill camera
The Agave Hill camera site is located on a promontory overlooking the Deep Canyon gorge and floodplain. The site is remote, difficult to access, subject to extreme desert conditions, and heavy wind loads. We chose this site to test the limits of off-the-shelf components deployed in the real world. Our goal is to create a reliable imaging system for use in research, teaching, and management.
The Agave Hill camera is a wireless, solar powered system with connectivity to the Boyd Center local area network and the Internet via the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN). The camera has pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities that can be controlled by any user with an Internet connection. We will also create a database for repeat imagery of fixed locations to document seasonal and long-term habitat changes. Opportunistic images can include raptor nesting locations and bighorn sheep activity.
Remote surveillance allows researchers to observe animal behavior without the disturbance of a human presence that can alter the normal behavior of an animal. Another benefit of remote sensing is that it reduces impacts to soils and vegetation that result from frequent visits to an area.
The mission of the University of California includes education and public outreach. Remote sensing facilitates educational opportunities and provides virtual access to sensitive areas that are otherwise closed to the public. The James Reserve (http://www.jamesreserve.edu), a unit of the UC Natural Reserve System, has an established K-12 education program that makes extensive use of several web cameras deployed at the reserve. In the future Boyd Deep Canyon will join the James Reserve in public outreach and education facilitated by remote sensing technology.
Mark Fisher installed the camera and took these images of the camera and power supply. This is a work in progress. The latest issue is related to short days and only two hours of sun in the canyon. We are also working on establishing a wireless connection to the UCR Palm Desert campus so that we can make the cameras available to more users without consuming HPWREN bandwidth.
Mobile Observation Unit
We are developing a portable surveillance system that can be deployed at remote locations. The weight of the components and ease of assembly in the field are significant considerations when accessing remote sites in difficult terrain. The camera is designed for day and night imagery, and it will enable us to determine visitation times and activity patterns of animals at remote sites. The system is currently deployed at a small water hole near the lab buildings at Boyd Center. We are developing and testing the system in this location before we deploy it at a remote waterhole in Deep Canyon.
Images from the camera will be saved in an image database system. The camera can detect motion and notify a researcher that an event has occurred by emailing the researcher with the current image attached to the email. The surveillance system will be the prototype for portable units that can be deployed by other researchers to remotely monitor the behavior of animals, vegetative growth, and habitat changes over time.
Remote observation of wildlife allows researchers to observe animals without the disturbance of a human presence that can alter the normal behavior of an animal. Another beneficial aspect of remote surveillance systems is the savings of time and travel expenses to remote locations by reducing the need for frequent visits to collect data that can be obtained by remote sensing.
The contact person for these University of California Natural Reserve System activities is Kevin Browne.
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