The ability to use wireless sensor networks to monitor habitats on the scale of the organism can provide higher resolution data and profound results for scientists. In order to study the feasibility of deploying wireless sensor networks for habitat monitoring and retreiving useful data, we performed an in-depth study of real-world habitat monitoring on Great Duck Island, Maine. We developed a set of system design requirements that cover the hardware design of the nodes, the design of the sensor network, and the capabilities for remote data access and management. A serious concern is sensor node power management. Scientists need to be able to collect data for an entire breeding season without replacing batteries or disrupting the animals in their natural habitat. By evaluating the power consumption of all aspects of the node during operation, we designed a strict power budget and management scheme. We designed a system architecture to address general habitat monitoring requirements and deployed an instance of the architecture for monitoring seabird nesting. The currently deployed network consists of 32 nodes on a small island off the coast of Maine streaming useful live data onto the web. The application-driven exercise serves to focus our efforts for further work in data sampling, communications, network retasking, and health monitoring in the field of wireless sensor networks. We are developing other operating system services including power management, watchdog functionality, and time synchronization.
Figure 1: The system architecture for habitat monitoring applications
Figure 2: The Mica wireless sensor node with the Mica weather board developed for environmental monitoring applications