Digital photography has revolutionised the way we view ourselves, each other and our environment. The use of automated cameras (including camera traps) in particular has provided remarkable opportunities for biological research. Although mostly used for recreational purposes, the development of user-friendly, versatile auto-focus digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras allows researchers to collect large numbers of high quality images at relatively little cost.
Image from the Canon PowerShot camera with CHDK script ‘Motion Detect Plus’. The thistle flower being visited by ♀ honeybee Apis mellifera L.
Pollinators have fascinated ecologists for decades, and they have traditionally been monitored by on-site human observations. This can be a time-consuming enterprise and – more importantly – species identification and recordings of behaviour have to be registered at the time of observation. This has two complications:
While writing notes, or recording them electronically, the observer cannot continue focusing on the animal or behaviour in question.
Such data then have to be transcribed, with the risk of making transcription errors.
Bringing Monitoring into the 21st Century
Although on-site human observations have predominated, today’s widespread availability of digital monitoring equipment has enabled unique data on flower visitors to be collected. In my research, I have used a time-efficient automated procedure for monitoring flower-visiting animals – namely foraging bumblebees visiting focal white clovers and honeybees visiting thistles.
Today is 10th National Wildlife Day. As we have done for a few awareness days this year (Bats, Biodiversity and Bees so far) we are marking the day by highlighting some of our favourite Methodsin Ecology and Evolution articles on the subject. Obviously ‘wildlife’ is a pretty big topic, so we have narrowed our focus (slightly) to monitoring wildlife (with one or two additional papers that we didn’t want to leave out).
This list is certainly not exhaustive and there are many more wonderful articles on these topics in the journal. You can see more of them on the Wiley Online Library.