Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Gadgets Just Keep Getting Smarter.

      I recently attended a session put on by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. This organization's objective is to inventory all the  various living organisms in the province. They have set up 1529 posts throughout the province where they identify all living organisms on the site. So areas such as grain fields, grasslands , forests, wetlands and mountains are studied. They first choose three by seven mile sites and then choose something in that area which is narrowed down to a few acres.

     So a small site of  few acres is studied very carefully to identify all organisms. The purpose of the whole operation is to set up a level which can be used when deciding on land uses.

     They've made some interesting discoveries. They've found several new species of soil mites. They've also found species that were not known to exist in Alberta. They also plan to go back to each site every five years and survey again.

     Now a lot of this work is just hard observation. Sit and observe. Take photos. Dig a bit here. Take samples.

   There are a few gadgets that can be used. The familiar one is the trail webcam. Some of you have trail cams and if you are patient in monitoring you will see some interesting critters travelling through your yard.

    The gadget I found most interesting was a sound recorder. The device is placed on the site and left for a year. For ten minutes of each hour the device turns on and listens. Each year the device is read for the sounds recorded. They can identify an amazing number of sounds. Bird and animal calls are a no brainer. They can also identify creatures that are moving in the area. So it will hear mice rustling through the grass, a bear ambling through the site, a deer munching on some browse, a coyote scratching his ear or a bird flying by. This device is extremely sensitive. I thought this was pretty neat.

    This organization has many tools in its toolkit but the one using sound for a whole year was most fascinating.

    Once this study is complete it will have a most detailed and complete inventory of the things around us.