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Note: This article is from Conservation Magazine, the precursor to Anthropocene Magazine. The full 14-year Conservation Magazine archive is now available here.

Point, Shoot, Post

June 10, 2013

Crowdsourced monitoring made simple

Martin Fluker’s innovation for ecosystem monitoring requires little infrastructure beyond strategically placed wooden posts and some bright green paint. But his grand vision harnesses the power of citizen science and the ubiquity of digital cameras to generate crowdsourced, time-lapse photography of ecologically sensitive landscapes.

Fluker, a lecturer in nature-based tourism at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, has created a network of four-foot-tall, weather-hardy posts topped with small platforms to support most amateur snappers’ digital cameras. Attached to each eponymous Fluker Post are instructions on where to point and shoot and how to upload photos to a central website.

Tourists, bushwalkers, and curious locals contribute their photos to the larger mission of tracking how targeted landscapes are impacted by human and environmental factors over time. In addition to building a long-term dataset, the citizen scientists and their photos can inform quick land-management changes, such as diverting bushwalkers from a trail showing early signs of vegetation damage.

Fluker single-handedly manages the posts’ construction and the administration of the online photo data feed to land managers; each site’s land-management agency pays for its post.

Over the past five years, Fluker has pitched more than 80 of the pioneering posts across eastern Australia. In January 2013, he started staking out marine environments. He installed two posts on a pontoon overlooking portions of the Great Barrier Reef that are exposed at low tide, as well as the first underwater post (made of aluminum) to observe a coral shelf at the same site.

Fluker is now setting his sights on urban landscapes, pending backing from metropolitan land managers. “Anywhere you have an environment undergoing change, visitation, and ability to access the Internet, the post is coming,” he says. ❧

—Caroline James

Above: Martin Fluker at post CCMA02 in Torquay, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Sharon Walker/On Location Photography

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