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Monkey Tracking Adventures (part 5)

13 Jan 2009

Question: what are the regulations on long-range 2.4GHz and associated bands in this area?

25-30 animals in a group typically, although spider monkeys typically move in smaller groups ( less than 5-6?)

Didn’t go into the field today, stayed in to read up on wildlife telemetry.  Found an interesting product from Sirtrack that already does proximity detection. These collars have to be retrieved from the field, though. It’s not clear from the Sirtrack site what the range on the collars is, but there’s a decent paper on them:  New Radiocollars for the Detection of Proximity among Individuals, by Suzanne Prange, Trevor Jordan, Colin Hunter and Stanley D. Gehrt in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 5 (Dec., 2006), pp. 1333-1344 Published by: Allen Press. I think these are worth some experimentation. I started to work up a simulation of what we might do with them in Processing.

Today is laundry day, oh joy.  Clean clothes tomorrow.

The rain last night was very intense at two points, strongest I’ve heard other than a hurricane or nor’easter.  No wind, though, which probably made it all the more intense.  There’s been much more rain than everyone expects (this being the dry season), so most everyone’s tracking is less productive than they’d like.  The dragonfly researchers (Rosser and Nataliya) have found only half the species they expected to so far, and spend much of their time in camp because it’s just not worth going out, for them.  The monkey folks go out most of the time, though.
A typical day around here for most of the researchers looks like this:
6:30 AM breakfast. 7 – 7:30ish prep for fieldwork. Most of the morning is spent in the field.  Some come back for lunch at noon, others take lunch and keep going. Afternoon is more fieldwork until about 5 or 5:30, followed by checkin at the lab, shower, and dinner at 7.  Most head back to the lab after dinner (8ish) and work until the electricity goes off at 9:30.  Then bed. By then it’s very dark, and you’re going to be up early, so you might as well go to sleep. Sometimes people head out earlier.  For example, I’ve seen Tony’s team head out at 5:45 some mornings to get to the monkeys earlier.

Electricity is on twice a day, from 10:30 until about 1 I think, and 6 or 6:30 until 9:30.  In the labs, the power comes on earlier, about 8:15 AM, and stays on later.  The network connection is up from about 8:30 until 9:30 in the labs, when it’s working.   There’s no media that I’ve noticed: no TV, haven’t heard any radio.

The showers are cold, but after a hike they’re refreshing once you get past the initial shock.  The cabins are all open to the air (curtained and screened, but that’s it), so you’ve got a pretty good idea what everyone else is saying in your group of cabins, and can hear the forest all night.  It’s a rich soundscape, and pretty loud, I’ll try to record it one night.

In addition to the researchers, there are a number of school groups that come through.  All the ones I’ve noticed so far are undergrads from the US, on biology fieldtrips.  They’re typically in the field all day, and have night classes after dinner.

There are ants crawling across my screen as I sit here programming.

Camera Traps

Tony brought two camera traps back in from the field today. One’s a video camera trap and the other’s a still camera trap. They’re about the simplest things I’ve seen so far, it’d be easy to build them from scratch.  The video camera trap is just a Sony Handycam in a Pelican case attached to a microcontroller.  The microcontroller’s got a PIR motion sensor in it, and a photocell.  The photocell is there to tell if it’s day or night.  The PIR, of course, is for motion detection, and when it detects motion, the microcontroller sends a signal to the camera using the Sony LANC protocol.  There are a series of DIP switches on the back of the controller board to set the operating mode, and tuning potentiometers to adjust the sensitivity of the sensors.  Couldn’t get a look at the controller, but it looks like an 18-pin PIC. There’s also an IR LED array attached to the front, but they don’t use it since the monkeys aren’t nocturnal.  The still camera trap is about the same thing, except it’s using a different protocol for the different camera, also a Sony (PSC41).  The controller on that one is a little fancier in that they incorporated an LCD display for feedback about the operating modes.  I took some pictures which I’ll post on Flickr when I get home.

One thing that fascinates me about the gear they’re using in the field is how old the battery technology is.  Most of it relies on AA, C, or 9-volts. Seems like converting the stuff to something with a higher energy density, or easier recharging, would be an easy first step. Even some of the new equipment I read up on was using C cells.

Published in environment monkeys networks physical computing research

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