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A low Cost and low Power Nest Monitoring System for Snow Petrels



Snow petrels (Pagodroma nivea) are birds breeding in crevices on the Antarctic Peninsula. We develop a system to monitor the nest temperatures and times birds spend outside their nests. To estimate this time, the system has been equipped with a simple Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) to overcome the insensitivity and false positives generated by Passive Infrared (PIR) motion detectors in the presence of fast moving and heat insulated birds. The system consists of a Arduino Mini Pro (3.3V, 8MHz), an RTC (DS3231N) providing a sufficiently accurate time and a micro SD card in which all measurements are stored. To maximize power efficiency, on-board calculations are avoided. The main design challenge is to maximize the uninterrupted availability of the system without exceeding the permissible size limit. The expected subzero temperatures of around -20 degrees Celsius prohibit the use of LiIon batteries which operate at 60% of their normal capacity in these harsh environments. Hence each system is powered by a 9V Alkaline block battery. The power consumption is 0.67mAh while the ADC samples the LDR resistance at a rate of 4Hz. It spikes to 40mAh if the SD card is accessed every 3.5 minutes to dump the measured values. Nevertheless a 9V battery is expected to power the system for a minimum of 14 days continuously.
A low Cost and low Power Nest Monitoring System for Snow
Alexander Fell
Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, New Delhi, India
21st December 2014
Snow Petrel I
Photo courtesy: Anant Pande (
Snow Petrel II
Breeding Ground
Time Measurement spend outside the Nest
Nest Temperatures
Accurate Time
Easy Access of Data
Physical Retrieval
Operational Temperature Range: -20C to -5C (-4F to 23F)
Battery Life at least 2 days
Challenges I
Long Battery Life High Density LiIon/LiPo batteries
Lithium Battery Temperature vs. Capacity (Source: Optibike)
Challenges II
Snow Petrel: Fast and well insulated against cold no infrared sensor
Is an LDR feasible?
Nest Location Temperature
Bill of Materials
Item Price [ ]
Arduino Mini Pro (8MHz, 3.3V) 4.80
SD Card (4GB) 3.20
LDR 0.08
SD Card Adapter 1.60
9V Block Battery 0.24
Battery Clip 0.08
Temperature Probe (DS18B20) 4.04
2 Resistors 0.05
Soldering 1.21
Real Time Clock (RTC) DS3231N 2.24
CR2032 Battery for RTC 0.08
3D printed Casing 0.48
Sum 18.10
The System
Primarily Results
Sample Rate:
LDR: 4Hz
RTC, Temperature: every 10min
SD Card Access: every 3min
Estimated Battery Life:
1mA = 400h 16.5 days
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