Snooping on Nature with High-Tech Gadgets

A couple of months ago our friends at WorldChanging wrote about digital fire lookouts. Great little inexpensive devices that remotely monitor forests and can warn us of fires. They even run on solar energy. But we're going to go much farther than that with similar devices: Cameras and other high-tech sensors have been installed in a 30-acre patch of forest near Idyllwild (California) to monitor nature. With them scientists can "watch bluebird eggs hatch, measure the growth of ferns and study the impact of air pollution [...] eventually uncover ways to combat global warming, track the deadly mosquito-borne West Nile virus, detect water pollution before people drink it and predict the course of invasive plants that alter landscapes and choke off water sources," etc.With a large-scale deployment of sensors of all kinds, tons and tons of useful data that could help us better understand how nature works could be gathered. It's also easier to react quickly to problems when we find out about them in the early stages.

"This is going to fill in the gaps of our knowledge," said Michael Hamilton, director of the James San Jacinto Mountain Reserve where the high-tech devices have been installed.

"You want to know when those hot moments occur," he said. "Is the forest going to disappear in the next 50 years if the temperature changes by three degrees? Now we have a window into those variables."

The information obtained could one day save lives and Earth itself, Hamilton said.
::California Forest Cameras Snoop on Wildlife, ::Digital Fire Lookouts

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