discussion / Sensors  / 23 July 2016

What technologies could help us monitor cave invertebrates?


How can we measure and monitor the biodiversity of caves in a non-destructive manner without having to visit every day or even every month? 

We, the IUCN Specialist Group on Cave Invertebrates, want to hear your ideas for how technology can help us monitor (and possibly discover) those small cold-blooded critters that live in caves. Many of the invertebrate species most in need of conservation attention are little known, and very few have been assessed for the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. It is clear that the status of many limestone-restricted species is perilous (whether or not they have been formally assessed) and many have already gone extinct as a direct result of economic development, especially quarrying limestone for cement. Can technology help us dramatically increase the number of cave invertebrates assessed for the Red List?

As you think of solutions, remember that this isn't a simple question of detecting movement in the dark; the technology needs to be able to detect cold blooded creatures that are likely at the ambient temperature exist against a warm backdrop with absolutely zero light. This means that simple camera traps, heat sensors or IR systems are likely not going to be appropriate, so we need to think outside the box. 

I've written a piece for WILDLABS.NET that gives a more thorough introduction to this challenge than I can offer in this space, and I invite you to read it to find out more about these fantastic cave ecosystems. Let's hear your ideas! 

Hi Tony, I'm leading a cross disciplinary group of researchers at Deakin University in Australia to build new technology for monitoring wildlife and engage citizen scientists with collecting data. 

We have designed a video trap for monitoring reptiles and amphibians, that uses constant video and has some on-board AI to not save video with nothing in it. Works day and night (UV illumination at night), but uses a lot of power so we have a battery and solar panel arrangement. I expect this could be easily adapted to monitor cave fauna.  Let me know if you already have a solution or want to discuss idea further.

Don Driscoll

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