Remote sensors, cameras able to monitor earth’s health

Technological advances in the burgeoning field of environmental monitoring are allowing scientists to take frequent and accurate measurements of weather conditions, animal behavior, and even contaminant levels without leaving their workstations. By placing tiny wireless instruments — no larger than a cell phone or a deck of cards — in an environmentally sensitive area, researchers are able to remotely access data produced by the devices’ cameras, robots, and sensors, providing them with a detailed account of the area’s health. The devices, called motes, are often networked together, able to power down when not needed or compensate for sensors within the network that are not working correctly. The field is relatively new, but spreading, with over $1 billion worth of sensors planned or in place in areas such as California hardwood forests and the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Says William Kaiser of UCLA’s Center for Embedded Network Sensing, “It’s going to change the way we think.”