Just part of the picture: camera traps reveal biodiversity at high-tech ecosystem observatories

TERN is revolutionising the way environmental change is monitored by creating an autonomous, wireless sensor network throughout Australia at its ecosystem observing sites. Remote camera traps, operating alongside time-lapse vegetation cameras, acoustic monitors and climate sensors, are helping researchers build complete pictures of biodiversity and providing early detection of environmental change. Join us as we share with you some of these remotely captured images.

TERN is developing the most sophisticated, nation-wide environmental monitoring sensor network ever used in Australia.  Autonomous, remotely controlled cameras, acoustic monitors, and climate sensors installed at our field stations continuously monitor our ecosystems, delivering terabytes of analysis-ready data to central repositories.

By providing open access to this sensor infrastructure and the monitoring data it generates, TERN is enabling Australia’s researchers and managers to track ecosystem response to environmental change.  TERN is also enabling educators to teach Australia’s future scientists the world’s best practice research methods.

Brave new world of biodiversity monitoring

TERN, in conjunction with our fellow NCRIS project partners and partner institutions, provides a nation-wide network of vegetation monitoring phenocams, bio-acoustic monitors and micro-climate sensors.  In addition to these high-tech sensors, we’ve also recently installed a number of remote camera traps at TERN’s targeted ecosystem process monitoring SuperSites, including the Far-North Queensland Rainforest SuperSite, Cumberland Plain SuperSite and South East Queensland Peri-Urban SuperSite.

These cameras lie in wait 24 hours a day for animals to walk past and trigger a photo.  The camera also records the time, date, temperature and moon phase, information which can be used by ecologists to build a picture of animal behaviour, population density and overall biodiversity.

Staff at the Daintree Discovery Centre—a component of TERN’s Far North Queensland Rainforest SuperSite—are keenly following the camera trapping results in search of images of a red-legged pademelon in action at the tourist centre to add to their educational displays.IFrame

Environmental change early detection

Associate Professor Mike Liddell of James Cook University, says that the integration of state-of-the-art technologies with more traditional field survey methods at TERN’s field stations is revolutionising the way scientists monitor biodiversity and track ecosystem change.

“TERN’s network of autonomous environmental monitoring sensors is providing, for the first time in Australia, an efficient and accurate environmental change early warning system,” says Mike.

“Phenocams, acoustic monitors and camera traps provide detailed insight into site-specific changes and have the ability to alert us to ecosystem changes.”

“The power of this site-specific information can be further enhanced when sensor-derived data are integrated with other TERN-delivered data like field data from ecosystem surveillance plots, carbon and water flux data, and remote sensing data,” adds Mike.

“Researchers can scale up their findings and understand not just site dynamics but broader landscape-scale processes such as changes in vegetation productivity and ecosystem carbon uptake.”

  • TERN’s  targeted ecosystem process monitoring SuperSites provide open access to a suite of research infrastructure, including data collected by both classical field techniques and advanced sensor systems.  For more information on how you can conduct your research using TERN’s SuperSite infrastructure click here.
  • Footage from TERN’s camera traps at our FNQ Rainforest SuperSite is regularly featured by the Daintree Discovery Centre on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.

View camera trap videos on TERN’s Vimeo site here.

Published in TERN newsletter September 2017

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