Apples & Androids: The future of wildlife monitoring?

Monday 11 April, 2016

The future of wildlife monitoring?

Tom checks the imagery from one of the cameras placed around Goonderoo Reserve. Photo by Tom Sjolund.Tom checks the imagery from one of the cameras placed around Goonderoo Reserve. Photo by Tom Sjolund.

Former video surveillance specialist and Bush Heritage volunteer Tom Sjolund is exploring ways old smartphone technology could assist with wildlife monitoring.

Imagine being able to visit one of our sites, monitor our native wildlife, or see what our volunteers are up to — from anywhere in the world.

It could soon be possible with Bush Heritage Australia volunteer Tom Sjolund currently developing and testing a new idea for wildlife monitoring and live streaming using donated smartphones at Goonderoo Reserve in the Brigalow Belt country of central Queensland.

Leanne Hales and Tom Sjolund experiment with the smartphone technology. Photo by Tom Sjolund.Leanne Hales and Tom Sjolund experiment with the smartphone technology. Photo by Tom Sjolund.

Tom, who is a former video surveillance specialist, came up with the idea while volunteer caretaking with his partner Alison at the 593-hectare Goonderoo conservation property owned by Bush Heritage. “We’d love to use this technology to help monitor wildlife here on Goonderoo, and if I could hatch a bigger, cost-effective surveillance system we might just have a better chance of doing that,” he says.

Smartphones can record video in high definition, have motion sensors and can send alerts, all of which make them a potentially useful candidate for monitoring wildlife.

To work effectively on Goonderoo and other Bush Heritage properties, the motion detection of smartphones needs testing for their suitability to sense and capture images of animals in the bush. The phones also need a housing arrangement that will adequately protect them in the outdoors.

We’d love to use this technology to help monitor wildlife here on Goonderoo, and if I could hatch a bigger, cost‑effective surveillance system we might just have a better chance of doing that.”

– Tom Sjolund

“The only other thing we need to solve is the limited battery power of smartphones, which I believe we can do by adding a solar panel and battery for as little as thirty dollars,” says Tom.

Goonderoo Reserve.The spectacular Goonderoo Reserve, which could soon be streamed live direct to your computer. Photo by Tom Sjolund.

If the system works, it could be incorporated into wildlife monitoring at a range of Bush Heritage conservation reserves in Queensland and around Australia.

“Smartphones have got a lot of sensors, plus two cameras with wireless and GPS, so there’s a lot of technology there we can use for various purposes,” Tom says.

“The smartphone wouldn’t replace the standard trap cameras as such, but using a network connection at the property it could allow us to stream live from the reserve, using nothing more than an old smartphone and a few inexpensive add-ons.”

Each location would have its own IP (internet) address, making it possible for people to log in remotely to see what’s happening on our reserves.

It is not the first time Tom Sjolund’s video surveillance expertise has been put to work for the environment. He has analysed 50,000 images for Bush Heritage from cameras monitoring endangered golden-shouldered parrots in Cape York, installed an underwater camera operating for six months at Great Keppel Island in the Great Barrier Reef, and set up cameras at the largest and oldest known green turtle rookery in the world located on Raine Island in northern Queensland.

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