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  • K Vanderwal

Installing sensors in sensitive wildlife areas

Yesterday we met up with a sustainability and ecology expert from Sydney Olympic Park Authority to discuss several sensor locations in areas where wildlife concerns were of particular concern.

In some regions of the park we had elected trees based not only on areas where it is important to measure the microclimate but where we could find locations easily. It turns out some of those visual markers were possum boxes. In those instances we elected to install on nearby trees, so as to not disturb the possums.

In sensitive areas around the lake it was not so easy. Home to fish and frogs it became apparent that just choosing a different tree was not going to be a solution. As there were also no appropriate signposts or light poles we could use, we needed to find a spot where the tree was not impacted by the installation, the tree was not in a known frog breeding area and a reasonable distance from fish breeding areas. Not to mention that it needed to be in an area where the LoRaWAN gateways can pick up a signal from the sensor.

So we needed to find a tree that would tolerate a sensor, was reasonably accessible and work out a solution to attach the sensor without harming the tree, or inadvertently trapping tree-climbing wildlife.

We're currently working on a prototype similar to possum boxes already used in the park, where we attach the sensor and its solar shield to a small, reasonably weighted plank of wood. Two sets of wires are then used on the trunk and over a branch, to keep the sensor securely attached to the tree without needing to tighten the wires and damaging the tree. The wires are also covered in hose to further protect the tree and avoid tiny paws getting stuck in small spaces.

Our ecology expert was able to guide us towards alternative locations, and had heaps of interesting information about the park and how it's looked after. Who knew that park staff need to wash and sterilise their boots and tools before working in these spots, to ensure they're not contaminating local regions with fish larvae, insect eggs and other live material - such as fungii and bacteria - from other areas of the park? Or that there's a a tree climbing frog with yellow underarms (Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii))? Unfortunately we were there in the middle of the day and didn't spot any frogs, but if you happen to be in the park at dawn or dusk and spot one, please do send us a pic - I'd love to see one!

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