Monkey Tracking Adventures (part 6)

14 Jan 2009

Radio Tests and Camera Traps

Today was a day of camera traps and radio tests.  Tony and I  went out to replace two of the camera traps that are used to cover a mineral lick where the monkeys come to eat the dirt in a cave.  I guess it’s rich in minerals and bugs, so they get a lot of monkeys there.  It’s also rich in bats, and as we were working, one flew out of the cave.

Thanks to Younghyun Chung for the following note on Canon cameras that may be worth looking into for future camera trap development:

“CHDK, Canon Hack Developers’ Kit, seems worth to look at to take a picture of monkeys. I just heard about this and it includes “Motion detection – Trigger exposure in response to motion, fast enough to catch lightning.”

While we were on the trail to the camera traps, we saw a stinky phallus.  It’s a pretty mushroom, snow white with large holes in the side, and tubular. Got some pictures I’ll post when I get home.

We had some actual sunshine today.  The forest looks gorgeous in the sun, and gets much warmer. Rosser and Nataliya were happy because they finally got a few more dragonflies.

What’s the maximum range on active RFID?  Wonder if it’s worthwhile to give the monkeys the equivalent of EZ-Pass. I know, Charleton Heston would say the minute they can get over the bridges easily, it’s all over for Manhattan.

Radio tests:  We looked at whether we can tell the difference between 5m, 10m, 25m, all the way out to 75m. We typically lost signal between 57 and 75m, just as we did the day before.  The signal was very noisy, so I’d say it was inconclusive.  There’s definitely a difference between 5m and 10m, but less so beyond that.  However, I wasn’t plotting it on a log scale either, where the plateaus will show up more sharply.  Will look again later.  Tony had fun bounding down the trail like a monkey.

On the way back from camp, we ran across a group of wooly monkeys very close to camp. I was able to get my camera out and get some monkey shots, finally.  Most of my shots are useless, because I hadn’t yet been able to work out settings to shoot them, but at least I have an idea of settings now.  It was pretty exciting.  Of course this was the one time I went out with no pack, only camera, and it started to rain as we were out there.

Some of the cabins ran out of water this evening. Kevin had no water, so came over to use our shower. He had been processing monkey poop using a “DIY centrifuge” — aka tie the vial on a string and spin it around for a few minutes — when one of the vials popped open and sprayed him in the face with poop.  Hopefully no ill effects, but good to wash it off right away.

One thing I’m learning is how much of my life involves high bandwidth.  The number of everyday requests I’ve gotten via email from colleagues, friends, etc. that involve transfers of more than 1MB is a lot larger than I thought.  At home I wouldn’t even think about this, because I always have a nice fat connection.  Down here, every byte counts.  And not being able to do some of those everyday things inconveniences people I work with.  So if you’ve been inconvenienced, sorry.  On the other hand, if you design websites, try going back to 1995-era home connection rates and looking at your sites.  You’ll be amazed.  Even something as innocuous as an online application form has stopped me cold down here. Take a look back through your mail for the last day and see which ones were either greater than 1MB, or referenced a web page that was.  It’s higher than you might think.

There’s not a ton of sleeping getting done in our cabin, it’s a bit of an infirmary. I’m still up and down on the toilet every couple of hours, and our cabinmate José is very ill.  He’s been achey and had a fever for days, yet has still been out in the field chasing birds.  He says the aches are worse at night, and after consulting a doctor (conveniently, his mom is one), he’s afraid he might have malaria.  Though there is no malaria in this region, he was on the coast before this. He’s planning to take the Friday boat out and see a doctor in Quito.  He’s hoping it’s less serious, and that he’ll be able to come back on the Monday boat following. The boats only go on Monday and Friday, except in cases of extreme emergency, so those are his only choices.

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