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In situ monitoring of environmental and ecosystems processes at much higher densities and over larger areas is likely to vastly improve the modeling of these processes and lead to the discovery of new classes of emergent phenomena. Wireless communication and networking can provide the technological infrastructure that will enable the needed improvement, while minimizing invasiveness and cost.

Wireless environmental sensing has tremendous benefits, and environmental scientists are becoming increasingly aware of its potential). At the same time, fundamental research directed at understanding the communication- and network-theoretic properties of generic energy-aware wireless sensor networks is underway worldwide. Most recently, small-scale proof-of-concept networks that target the environmental sensing application are under development. While these projects indicate that optimism is warranted, the promise of wireless sensor networks for environmental monitoring--arrays of hundreds or thousands of small, inexpensive sensors that gather information and cooperate to relay that information to the ultimate destination---remains to be realized.

The primary thrusts of this project are (i) to develop robust prototype large-scale wireless environmental sensor network technology that is applicable to a wide range of habitats and experimental regimes, (ii) to deploy this technology to three diverse, large-scale ecological “testbed” field studies that will generate rich datasets and contribute to progress in several areas, and (iii) to build awareness of the benefits of this technology to society, and improve collaboration between engineering and the biological and ecological sciences. The three ecosystems span the continental United States and represent very different habitats to test our wireless sensing technology; forest gaps in North Carolina, microhabitats created by the largest tree species in the world, the California Redwood, and semi-arid piñon-juniper woodlands in Arizona. The results of these studies will have global implications for biological diversity and ecosystem function.

Sponsors

National Science Foundation Biocomplexity in the Environment - Instrument Development for Environmental Activities Program

NAU Department of Biological Sciences

Northern Arizona University

Microchip Technology


Last updated April 18, 2005. PLH

 
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