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Fantastic Beasts and How We Find Them

Our research in the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen

One of our research sites is the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen (AWD) in North Holland. The ARISE Monitoring Demonstration Sites team has teamed up with Waternet to monitor the biodiversity in the park, and we're currently expanding our work.

Wildlife cameras are a commonly used method by biologists to gather data on the warmblooded species present in a given area. Traditional wildlife cameras require a lot of effort in the field for long term deployment- they need to regularly be maintained by changing batteries, as well as downloading the data from the SD cards. However, in the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen the ARISE Monitoring Demonstration Sites team have deployed a modern take on the traditional wildlife camera.

SMS operated cameras

Similarly to traditional cameras, they are triggered when a warm blooded animal is detected by their passive infrared sensor, and at night an infrared flash illuminates the landscape. As the infrared spectrum is outside the visible spectrum of most species, the cameras take images without disturbing the animals. However, what makes the wildlife cameras deployed at AWD more unique than traditional cameras, is that they can function autonomously by transmitting images over 4G as they are taken, can maintain power 24/7 with the aid of a solar panel, and the MDS team can even send them remote commands via SMS! Using camera models such as this can allow us to explore areas that are more difficult to reach and at a larger scale, as they require less time spent maintaining them in the field.

The MDS team piloted these so-called ‘autonomous wildlife cameras’ at the Waterleidingduinen. The images captured were periodically run through an Artificial Intelligence algorithm to detect the species captured. In total 18 species have been captured by these cameras. Even with only a handful of pilot cameras, we still found some nice surprises like a barn owl (Tyto alba). While not an unusual species in itself, it was the first time one had been spotted in the AWD, according to experts at Waternet.


More research Following this pilot, the ARISE MDS team is currently deploying our first large-scale camera trap monitoring effort to monitor biodiversity using autonomous wildlife cameras at AWD. From the systematic placement on cameras, we will continue to gather data on the species present in the area, and we would like to further explore more in-depth ecological questions. For example, another goal would be to look at the relative abundance of grazers (e.g. fallow deer and rabbits) in different compositions, such as in exclosures: how does the absence of fallow deer affect the presence and abundance of other species? Additionally, we want to know if the method of using camera observations of rabbits along the rabbit monitoring route are comparable to those of the traditional monitoring method of human observations. Can cameras serve as an effective alternative when humans are unavailable?

Well, soon we hope to find out the answers to these questions, and hopefully many more! Be assured that any pictures taken of people will not be used, other than for AI identification as Homo Sapiens. Be sure to follow Waternet (Dutch only) and ARISE for updates!

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