Canon Cameras Deployed to Help Advance Marine Research
Recent events in the Gulf of Mexico have focused public attention on the importance of protecting the marine environment. More often, however, the work of marine conservationists and biologists goes unnoticed, as much of it -- including helping injured marine animals -- occurs behind closed doors. The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (in Riverhead, N.Y.) is helping to change this situation by installing VB-C60 pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) IP video cameras made by Canon U.S.A. Inc., which donated the devices to the foundation to assist in the preservation of the environment.
Canon said the cameras are enabling the public to use the Internet to view injured and stranded marine animals during their rehabilitation. Visitors to the Riverhead Foundation's rescue facility, located at the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium, also can access the VB-C60 PTZ IP video cameras from interactive kiosks to learn about the organization and its work with the animals. Currently, the foundation provides video of seals and sea turtles in its care, and it plans to expand the coverage provided by its VB-C60 PTZ IP video cameras to other animals.
"The Canon IP video cameras are helping people to understand the important work we do at the Foundation," said Rob DiGiovanni, its director/senior biologist. "The public typically calls upon us when an animal is in need of care. We come out, assess the animal, and if it needs help we bring it back to our rehabilitation facility. Until recently, however, most of our work went unseen by the public.
"By using these Canon IP video cameras, we've been able to show the public what goes on behind the scenes, and we allow them to see the animals undergoing rehabilitation," DiGiovanni added. "The cameras make the public a more active part of the whole process, so that when it comes to the time that we can release these animals back out into the wild, the public is able to take part in that as well."
Fully web-enabled for easy networking across LAN or WAN environments, Canon's VB-C60 PTZ IP video cameras are remotely controllable, enabling visitors to the foundation's website to follow the animals' movements around their containment area. A Genuine Canon 40X optical zoom lens and an intuitive Web interface allows users to position the cameras, adjust brightness levels, and zoom in for an up-close look at creatures most people are unfamiliar with, even though they may live in relatively close proximity to their offshore marine habitats. The VB-C60 PTZ IP video cameras are housed in a protective dome to shield them from the humid and potentially wet environment of the containment and rehabilitation areas.
In addition to the general public, foundation researchers and veterinarians also are using the Canon VB-C60 IP video cameras to monitor seals, sea turtles, and other marine animals.
"The cameras enable us to monitor the animals' behavior before we go out to feed them," explained Julika Wocial, rescue program supervisor. "We also are able to see how they are interacting with the public, volunteers, and staff, and we can observe if there are any changes in behavior. If there is an issue we might want to look at, we can record these behaviors for a more detailed examination."
Wocial added that the 40x optical zoom on the VB-C60 IP video cameras is another useful feature for observing the animals, and a particularly important one for dolphin rehabilitation.
"It allows us see important physical details without the need to actually go down to the tank," Wocial said. "Canon VB-C60 IP video cameras will not only allow the public to see them, but will also help us in identifying any idiosyncratic behaviors the animal might have. We can view dolphin video on a real-time basis and watch it a lot more closely without having to go to the tank. One of the key challenges when rehabilitating a dolphin is human interaction; we don't want the animal to 'imprint' on us. So we see the cameras as being an extremely valuable tool going forward to prevent that from happening."
DiGiovanni said the cameras also are key to the foundation's future plans for broadening its information-gathering efforts on marine animal behavior in the wild. A network of Canon IP video cameras installed near beaches and other shoreline areas is being considered, he noted.
"We are trying to develop a system where we can deploy these cameras out in the field to look at animals in the wild and gather information on their population and distribution as well as their health status," he said. "Ideally, we would love to put some Canon VB-C60s in some of the more well-defined areas where seals congregate. With that type of a set-up, we can observe wild behaviors. The amazingly clear resolution of the Canon VB-C60's powerful 40x optical zoom lens would enable us to identify previously tagged and released animals to keep tabs on their progress in the wild."
DiGiovanni noted that powering an IP video monitoring system in the wild can prove to be a challenge, as remote locations usually lack an electrical connection, but that, fortunately, the Canon cameras offer a variety of power options, ranging from the single-cable Power over Ethernet (PoE) option to a 24VAC, or a 12V DC input for external power, such as that provided by solar panels. "We are working closely with the local parks to gain access so we can put these cameras out there," he said. "They are all coming on board because they agree that this is a terrific concept with a lot of potential."
Educating the public about marine animals -- and how they may be negatively impacted by human activity ranging from pollution to recreational boating -- is another area in which the foundation is relying on the imaging and operational features of Canon VB-C60 IP video cameras.
"We recently put the animals up on our website," Wocial said. "Since then, we have incorporated use of the cameras at a few fairs and in some educational programs at local schools. Whenever we book an education program at a school or facility we will try to get Internet access so we can incorporate real-life images into our programs. Before the installation of the Canon VB-C60 IP video cameras we showed previously recorded video. Live, real-time image access is, however, something I feel can be very beneficial for young people because they can see first-hand what is happening in the facility."
DiGiovanni added, "Before we installed the Canon VB-C60 IP video cameras, we were using video conferencing systems to reach out to children that don't live close enough to visit the aquarium and see the animals for themselves. Now anybody in the country can see them. Hopefully this will enable us to spread our educational programs and do more remote-access education that can help raise awareness of the importance of protecting our marine environments."
Already widely used in the security industry, Canon's VB-C60 IP video cameras' capabilities also make them relevant for many other applications and markets, including the remote monitoring of animals in zoos, stables, farms, pet-boarding services, and other types of scientific research facilities.