Early in 2011 it became clear that open-source micro controllers had the potential to replace expensive commercial sensor units with cheap & cheerful DIY equivalents. Provided someone was willing to dedicate themselves to this development. In January 2014, we started a small blog to record my attempt to build a simple water flow sensor using an Arduino. The project has grown since then, and we’ve developed those crude early builds into a generic data logging platform which can be configured for many different environmental monitoring applications.
The basic 3-module design uses a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach, and this means any component in the build, including the Arduino itself, can be changed to suit the available parts without requiring a significant re-write of the operating code. Our performance benchmark is at least one full year of operation on AA batteries, and with this logger as a foundation, we are deploying prototypes in wetlands, coastal waters and flooded caves. Although we are developing a ‘complete system’, rather than a single purpose machine, we are focusing on applications for hydrology research because of the crucial role water resources play in sustaining us, and connecting everything people do to the natural world.
Anyone can learn to build something like this from scratch, and I hope that this project is a useful contribution to the Makers movement; engaging people with environmental issues and giving them a chance to actively participate as citizen scientists. So if you want to start a project of your own, you can go straight to the How to build a Datalogger page, or you can browse through our ongoing adventures from the place where it all started. There have been many successes & many failures along the way, and I still learn something new every day…