A digital making community for wildlife: Naturebytes camera traps

Edited to add: Naturebytes’ website is now up and running at http://naturebytes.org/. You can sign up to their newsletter for updates.

Start-up Naturebytes hopes their 3D printed Raspberry Pi camera trap (a camera triggered by the presence of animals) will be the beginning of a very special community of makers.

Supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Education Fund and Nesta, Naturebytes aims to establish a digital making community for wildlife with a very important purpose. Their gadgets, creations and maker kits (and, hopefully, those of others who get involved) will be put to use collecting real data for conservation and wildlife research projects – and to kick it all off, they took their prototype 3D printed birdbox-style camera trap kit to family festival Camp Bestival to see what everyone thought.

NatureBytes camera trap prototype

If you were one of the lucky bunch to enjoy this year’s Camp Bestival, you’d have seen them over in the Science Tent with a colourful collection of their camera trap enclosures. The enclosure provides a snug home for a Raspberry Pi, Pi camera module, passive infrared sensor (PIR sensor), UBEC (a device used to regulate the power) and battery bank (they have plans to add external power capabilities, including solar, but for now they’re using eight trusty AA batteries to power the trap).

A colourful collection of camera trap enclosures

A colourful collection of camera trap enclosures

The PIR sensor does the job of detecting any wildlife passing by, and they’re using Python to control the camera module, which in turn snaps photos to the SD card. If you’re looking for nocturnal animals then the Pi NoIR could be used instead, with a bank of infrared LEDs to provide illumination.

Naturebytes says:

When you’re aiming to create maker kits for all manner of ages, it’s useful to try out your masterpiece with actual users to see how they found the challenge.

Naturebytes at Camp Bestival

Explaining how the camera trap enclosures are printed

Assembling camera traps at Camp Bestival

Camp Bestival festival-goers assembling camera traps

With screwdrivers at the ready, teams of festival-goers first took a look at one of our camera enclosures being printed on an Ultimaker before everyone sat down to assemble their own trap ready for a Blue Peter-style “Here’s one I made earlier” photo opportunity (we duct-taped a working camera trap to the back of a large TV so everyone could be captured in an image).

In fact, using the cam.start_preview() Python function we could output a few seconds of video when the PIR sensor was triggered, so everyone could watch.

One camera trap in action capturing another camera trap

Naturebytes duct-taped a working camera trap to the back of a large TV so everyone could see a camera trap in action

Our grand plan is to support the upcoming Naturebytes community of digital makers by accepting images from thousands of Naturebytes camera traps out in gardens, schools or wildlife reserves to the Naturebytes website, so we can share them with active conservation projects. We could, for example, be looking for hedgehogs to monitor their decline, and push the images you’ve taken of hedgehogs visiting your garden directly to wildlife groups on the ground who want the cold hard facts as to how many can be found in certain areas.

Job done, Camp Bestival!

Job done, Camp Bestival!

Keep your eyes peeled – Naturebytes is powering up for launch very soon!