What Lives Here?

What Lives Here?
Team Name: 
GDF Makers

About the project

Have you ever been walking in your local park and wondered what’s actually living around you? Ever wondered why it sounds so quiet, no sign of native animals and birds? Well, the world, and Australia is rapidly urbanising, and with this often comes a loss of biodiversity as the environments and homes that native animals and birds share with humans are rapidly disappearing. 

It turns out that these native animals, and birds in particular are really good indicators of your local biodiversity – if they disappear then you know your local area is suffering. Biodiversity is really important because it underpins everything we do. 

Ever wondered what we can do about this?  

The answer is 'What Lives Here?'

Councils and non-government organisations are worried about local biodiversity as well and are installing nesting boxes for possums and birds at great cost. Nesting boxes can provide homes to these animals to try and make up for the disappearing tree hollows that they need. But, how do know if these nesting boxes are being used and exactly who is using them?  How do we know we have we installed the boxes in the best places?  

With What Lives Here you can find out if your local nesting boxes are being used, and who might be living in them. We use sensors and technology to monitor the boxes, and work out how often they are being used. This data will help inform about how and where the nesting boxes should be set up in the future.  Added to local biodiversity data from official databases like CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia we can work out who’s living in the area and make sure that we have accounted for them.

To ensure that nesting boxes are doing their job, we will use software, databases and hardware technology like:

  • sensors 
  • Bluetooth beacons
  • LowRaWAN™
  • wireless networks
  • Raspberry Pi
  • WioLink 

Anyone can be involved with 'What Lives Here?' some examples are:

  • You see if animals are using the nesting boxes in parks, urban environments - and in their own back yards.
  • You freely use data collected from the nesting boxes in your own projects, learning - or just out of sheer curiosity and fun.
  • Scientists and citizen science projects use the data to inform and plan their projects. 
  • Schools use the nesting boxes and resulting data for projects and learning - for example, in science, mathematics, geography, technology studies.

The Tech

Nesting boxes are only the first part of the story. 

In tandem with this project, we are looking at setting up an Adelaide LowRaWAN™ network (The Things Network). The advantage of this technology for Maker and citizen science projects is that it allows 'things' to talk to the internet without 3G or WiFi - no WiFi codes and no mobile subscriptions - meaning that if a box is located in a remote area; data can still be obtained on who is living there, on conditions, effectiveness... or whatever it is you are measuring/monitoring.

All the sensor data is linked to the cloud and a ‘Buddy’ visual interface to that anyone can see what’s living here, right now. 

Soon we will be adding small self-contained weather stations on the nesting boxes to help determine heat island affects across the city (meshed with BOM data), and measure local air quality to add to the official EPA data.

Basically, whatever sensors we can hang in, on or off a nesting box we could give it a go on What Lives Here?

Humans need to connect with nature

When all is said and done, What Lives Here? Is not just about the technical stuff, its about people and their local environment – something often called biophilia.
Biophilia refers to a deep connection that many humans need to interact with nature. Rather than using technology to disconnect, we are using it to satisfy and strengthen connections of human with nature.

Project links
The data collected from all the nesting box sensors:

  • will be mashed up with a range of open data, such as animals that have been found in the local area already from the Atlas of Living Australia, and add to that existing data
  • added to existing data on street trees from Adelaide City Council and the City of Prospect, so that people can monitor not just the nesting boxes, but the condition of the trees that are attached to
  • can be added to existing official EPA Air Quality data to help fill in some of the gaps between major monitoring stations

Smart Cities

What Lives Here? is about making smart cities really, really smart AND sustainable as well.  

Used Datasets: 
Dataset Name: 
Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) Spacial Data - species sightings
Publishing Organisation/Agency: 
National Research Infrastructure for Australia, Australian Government
Jurisdiction of Data: 
Australian Government
How did you use this data in your entry?: 
To pull information about possum sightings.
Dataset Name: 
Recent Air Quality
Publishing Organisation/Agency: 
Environmental Protection Agency
Jurisdiction of Data: 
Government of South Australia
Event Location: 
Adelaide Maker