Post provided by Ronny Steen
Pollinators have fascinated ecologists for decades, and they have traditionally been monitored by on-site human observations. This can be a time-consuming enterprise and – more importantly – species identification and recordings of behaviour have to be registered at the time of observation. This has two complications:
- While writing notes, or recording them electronically, the observer cannot continue focusing on the animal or behaviour in question.
- Such data then have to be transcribed, with the risk of making transcription errors.
Bringing Monitoring into the 21st Century
Although on-site human observations have predominated, today’s widespread availability of digital monitoring equipment has enabled unique data on flower visitors to be collected. In my research, I have used a time-efficient automated procedure for monitoring flower-visiting animals – namely foraging bumblebees visiting focal white clovers and honeybees visiting thistles.
The objectives were to model daily activity and to test the use of a cheap, off-the-shelf digital camera, Canon PowerShot®, with CHDK motion-detection script, for monitoring of flower visitors. CHDK is a unique software application developed by enthusiasts that enables extra features for ported Canon™ ‘Point&Shoot’ cameras. In this setup ‘Motion Detection Plus‘ was used. The data were automatically entered and processed using
R-scripts, removing the need for manual data entry before analysis.
More Applications of Automatic Camera Monitoring
The use of automatic event-triggered photo and video systems could be used to study a range of different species such as pollinators, cavity dwellers or cavity breeders. Linked with efficient data processing, automatic camera monitoring systems can become an important tool complementing on-site human observations. This would be especially useful for obtaining high temporal resolution data on the scale of hours to round-the-clock measurements for modelling diel activity.
To find out more about automatic camera monitoring and data processing, read my Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘Diel activity, frequency and visit duration of pollinators in focal plants: in situ automatic camera monitoring and data processing’.