Reptiles and amphibians (herpetofauna) make a big chunk out of ‘data deficient’ species and are comparatively under-studied in favor of more “charismatic” or “cute” species. Most traditional monitoring methods for herpetofauna, like searches or trapping, tend to be time and money-consuming, intrusive for the animals and/or destructive for their environment.
Cameras are non-invasive, non-destructive and can be time and cost effective when left out in the wild for a long time. But cameras are not being used to monitor reptiles and amphibians so much just yet. One main reason is that most wildlife cameras rely on the difference of temperature between the animal and the background to detect the animal. It works great for endotherms (so-called “warm-blooded” animals), but it becomes a problem for ectotherms (so-called “cold-blooded” animals).
You can observe the difference on the infrared image below: the body heat of the mouse, an endotherm (in orange) gets detected as opposed to the python, ectotherm (in light blue), image curtesy of D. Julius. It is especially problematic at night, when the sun light has not been warming them up.
Another issue with regular cameras is that reptiles and amphibians might not be big enough to be detected, or might be too fast to trigger the capture! This is why the TechnEcology project is testing a new camera trap technology that captures every movement under its lens, day and night, no matter what the temperature is. This method brings its own set of challenges, but the Ecology, Engineering and IT teams at Deakin along with the Citizen Scientists are working on them!
Want to know more? You can find a more detailed presentation in the video below :