Raspberry Pi in the natural world

Because Raspberry Pi is small, affordable, and hackable, we find ourselves popping up in the wildest corners of the planet, monitoring the natural world around us. We’re everywhere from the rainforests of Borneo to the Antarctic home of Adelie penguins. We’ve even been attached to the backs of turtles. Yes, really.

We also happen to be in possession of an amazing animator, Sam, who has brought all of these exotic applications to life in this shiny new video. For every example you see on screen, you can dig into a longer blog post that tells you more about the conservation or research project our hardware is supporting. Have a watch of the video above, then scroll down to learn more about the orangutans, bees, bears, and other natural phenomena that Raspberry Pi technology monitors.

Penguins in Antarctica

Orange circles identify adults, green circles chicks, and yellow circles eggs

The Penguin Lifelines project, headed up by Dr Tom Hart, began as a multi-organisation enterprise. The Zoological Society of London worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oxford University, Oceanites, and Stony Brook University to monitor Adelie penguin populations throughout the year, and to find out how external events like weather and disease, and human influences like pollution and fisheries, affect them.

The penguins triggered the cameras by moving near motion detectors, and Raspberry Pi computers sent the pictures to the researchers via the Iridium satellite network. It’s a good job Raspberry Pi can cope with temperatures at least as low as -40°C.

The Penguin Watch citizen science project let people everywhere help by analysing the photographs of the Adelie penguins. The project is still running, now investigating more penguin species via cameras in more locations, and you can still help.

Read more about the Penguin Lifelines project.

Beehives in England


Hilborough Mill Apiary’s Pye Bee project monitors bees’ activity inside a colony via audio and video streaming as well as temperature and humidity sensors. The data the sensors gather is used to investigate the relationship between temperature and humidity, which are known to affect bees, and the bees’ behaviour and health. 

Pye Bee uses Raspberry Pi to send real-time audio and visual data that can alert beekeepers to changes in activity. The project also provides metadata for comparative behaviour analysis across different colonies.

Read more about the Pye Bee project.

Listening to the Bornean rainforest

Solar-powered audio recorders, built on Raspberry Pi, have been installed in the Borneo rainforest so researchers can listen to the local ecosystem 24/7. A forest ecosystem’s health can be gauged by the sound it creates, because this indicates how many species are around.

The SAFE Acoustics website, funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), streams audio from the recorders so you can listen to live audio or skip back through the day’s recording. You can listen to the rainforest dawn chorus over your after-work beverage of choice.

Read more about Bornean rainforest listening posts.

Volcano on Hawaii

With the help of Raspberry Pi, volcanologist Dr Carolyn Parcheta built a robot that can go where humans can’t. It has allowed scientists to model cracks and vents in more detail than ever before. Learning about volcano geometry is crucial to understanding how eruptions work: how magma flows, and how gas escapes. Dr Parcheta’s eventual goal is to 3D map all of the fissures in Kilauea, an active volcano on Hawaii.

Read more about robot volcanology.

Green sea turtles off West Africa

The Arribada Initiative uses Raspberry Pi Zero computers and cameras to follow the journey of green sea turtles. The data is used to inform policy, designate marine areas for protection, and identify threats to species. The Raspberry Pi hardware lives inside a waterproof tag that is attached to the turtles and swims along with them. They can also be configured to take video clips at timed intervals.

Read more about the Arribada Initiative.

Bat detecting in Germany

bat detector raspberry pi in the natural world

Over in Germany, Holger and Henrike Körber have turned a Raspberry Pi into a bat detection device. An inexpensive high-sensitivity microphone capable of picking up high frequencies, and some batty software, let users detect and analyse bat calls. Bat Pi allows you to make graphical interpretations of bat calls, create histories of bat activity, manipulate calls to bring them into frequencies you can hear, and identify bat species by their call.

Read more about Bat Pi.

Bear recognition in Alaska

BearID uses face recognition technology to work out how many bears live in an area. It monitors their movements and health, so researchers can refine conservation techniques that can can be applied to other species.

The face detection software immediately recognises and marks each bear’s facial triangle of eyes and nose

Read more about Bear ID.

You can find lots more Raspberry Pi natural world projects by taking a look at the Natural World tag on our blog.

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