Field biologists and ecologists are starting to open new avenues of inquiry at greater spatial and temporal resolution, allowing them to “observe the unobservable” through the use of wireless sensor networks. Sensor networks facilitate the collection of diverse types of data (from temperature to imagery and sound) at frequent intervals—even multiple times per second—over large areas, allowing ecologists and field biologists to engage in intensive and expansive sampling and to unobtrusively collect new types of data. Moreover, real-time data flows allow researchers to react rapidly to events, thus extending the laboratory to the field. We review some existing uses of wireless sensor networks, identify possible areas of application, and review the underlying technologies in the hope of stimulating additional use of this promising technology to address the grand challenges of environmental science.
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Vol. 55 • No. 7