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UC Sets Up Wireless Monitoring to Protect Threatened Species

UC Sets Up Wireless Monitoring to Protect Threatened Species

May 9, 2013

New technology developed at the University of Canterbury (UC) is helping protect New Zealand’s kiwi and other native birds.

Nine out of 10 North Island brown kiwi chicks born in the wild will die before they are one year old. Stoats, rats, cats and possums exact a terrible toll on threatened species and many native bird species are fighting for survival against introduced predators.

The Department of Conservation maintains a network of over 180,000 traps and spends more than $5 million a year on stoat and rat trapping.

However checking traps regularly requires a large input of time and is costly. Making it even more inefficient is the fact that control is carried out to maintain kiwi populations at very low densities so checking of traps often means finding no captures. Being able to check traps remotely provides significant cost savings.

The UC Wireless Research Centre has been commissioned by Landcare Research to investigate methods for remotely monitoring traps and other detection devices such as trail cameras to avoid field workers having to visit the traps. The UC work is part of the Strategic Technologies for Pest Control project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

UC senior research engineer Kelvin Barnsdale says the application of wireless technology in forest terrain has almost been left behind by modern developments which now strive for the highest data speeds and high density coverage.

``In this project, there were two major technical issues to overcome. One being that radio waves travel through foliage badly and secondly the trap monitors needed to be very low energy to enable a long operational life.

``One project focused on the monitoring of traps, which simply informs the field worker of the status of each trap. The second project looked at transmitting images of wildlife from infra-red sensing trail cameras. Each system was designed to send the information back to a central collection point that would be easily accessed remotely by the field worker.

``The students investigated the most suitable frequencies for radio propagation in forest and the best method of transmission. The final proposed systems were shown to give a cost saving of over 10 percent in accessible forest and even greater savings in more remote areas,’’ Barnsdale says.

The projects were completed by masters students Thomas Harding and Richard Jeffcote and supervised by Barnsdale and Dr Graeme Woodward, with support from Bruce Warburton of Landcare Research.

ENDS

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