A Macroscope in the Redwoods
Gilman Tolle,Joseph Polastre,Robert Szewczyk, andDavid Culler
Computer Science Division,University of California,BerkeleyBerkeley, CA 94720
Neil Turner, Kevin Tu,Stephen Burgess, andTodd Dawson
Department of IntegrativeBiology, University ofCalifornia, BerkeleyBerkeley, CA 94720
Phil Buonadonna,David Gay, and Wei Hong
Intel Research BerkeleyBerkeley, CA 94704
The wireless sensor network “macroscope” oﬀers the po-tential to advance science by enabling dense temporal andspatial monitoring of large physical volumes. This paperpresents a case study of a wireless sensor network that recorded44 days in the life of a 70-meter tall redwood tree, at adensity of every 5 minutes in time and every 2 meters inspace. Each node measured air temperature, relative humid-ity, and photosynthetically active solar radiation. The net-work captured a detailed picture of the complex spatial vari-ation and temporal dynamics of the microclimate surround-ing a coastal redwood tree. This paper describes the de-ployed network and then employs a multi-dimensional anal-ysis methodology to reveal trends and gradients in this largeand previously-unobtainable dataset. An analysis of systemperformance data is then performed, suggesting lessons forfuture deployments.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
Computer - Communication Networks
]: Net-work Architecture and Design—
Special-Purpose and Application-Based Systems
]: Real-time and embedded systems; J.3 [
Life and Medical Sci-ences
]: Biology and genetics
Design, Experimentation, Measurement, Performance
Wireless Sensor Networks, Microclimate Monitoring, Macro-scope, Application Analysis
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November 2–4, 2005, San Diego, California, USA.Copyright 2005 ACM 1-59593-054-X/05/0011 ...
Wireless sensor networks oﬀer the potential to dramati-cally advance several scientiﬁc ﬁelds by providing a new kindof instrument with which to perceive the natural world. Asthe telescope allowed us to perceive what is far away andthe microscope what is very small, some refer to sensor net-works as “macroscopes”  because the dense temporal andspatial monitoring of large volumes that they provide oﬀersa way to perceive complex interactions. As the technologyhas progressed, we have gotten ever closer to obtaining suchmacroscopic views of previously unrecorded phenomena[9,11, 15]. This paper reports on a case study of microclimaticmonitoring of a coastal redwood canopy, a case study thatwe believe has clearly crossed that threshold. Using a largenumber of wireless micro-scale weather stations we have ob-tained an unprecedented picture of environmental dynamicsover such a large organism. Here we describe the study,present an overview of the data that has been obtained, anduse a multidimensional analysis methodology to more deeplyunderstand the dense and wide-ranging spatiotemporal dataobtained from the macroscope.
In meeting with a collection of local biologists, we beganwith the question of what would they like to observe thatthey simply cannot measure today. The responses covereda wide array of interests, including the dispersal patterns of wind-borne seeds, the water proﬁles experienced by spawn-ing salmon, insect densities across riparian environments,and the microclimate of meadow and woodland transects.In classifying these desires against the requirements theyplace on the underlying technology and the state of the artin the measurement and analysis techniques, we arrived atan initial choice of studying the ecophysiology of coastalredwood forests.The microclimate over the volume of an entire redwoodtree is known to have substantial variation and to have sub-stantial temporal dynamics. When you walk in the forestit is temperate and moist, despite the wide variation inweather conditions. The top of the tree experiences widevariation in temperature, humidity, and, of course, light,whereas the bottom is typically cool, moist, and shaded.This variation was understood to create non-uniform gra-dients, essentially weather fronts, that move through thestructure of the tree. For example, as the sun rises, the topof the canopy warms quickly. This warm front moves downthe tree over time until the entire structure stabilizes or until