The project seek to extend the data collection activities in existing Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) scientific projects currently underway, and funded through the Biological Sciences Division, NSF, commencing with the University of Wisconsin North Temperate Lakes LTER, with field sites near Trout Lake in Northern Wisconsin and near Madison in Southern Wisconsin, and the Puerto Rican Tropical Rainforest Luquillo LTER by the University of Puerto Rico and the US Forest Service. In later phases it will reach other of the 21 NSF supported LTER site within the United States, including northern Alaska, which represent very different data sensing, collection, and communications challenges.

The project initially will study the current and projected data collection activities, methods being used now, and the types of scientific equipment in use at the Northern Temperate Lakes and Luquillo LTER sites. Analysis of data types and rates will be done to determine bandwidth and other technical requirements, as well as the types of presentations and storage of the collected data on computer networks which are needed to make the data useful to the principal researchers, and accessible to others who have a reason to access it from distant locations.

The project will survey the range of sensors available or projected in the industry (some of which will not be made for biological science but can be adapted to it).

Then the project will study and experiment with ways to interface current sensory equipment to wireless devices, and thence to networks used by the researchers in both field research stations and to other institutions via the Internet. A particular priority will be put on what it takes to providing real-time data flows, with interactive controls, from remote sensors and sites to distant laboratories using the Internet as part of the network links between the sensors, field scientists, the forward res earch stations, and institutions where the research is based. Most current data collection is periodic, not real time, for lack of continuous connectivity, which wireless affords, and is affordable.

Wireless links to sensors capable of sensing a variety of physical, chemical, and biological variables will be created, requiring in most cases solar, wind, or water driven battery re-charging systems. Provisions will be made for long field stay times fo r the equipment subject to environmental extremes and natural hazards. Designs for such packages can expect to emerge. Wireless devices which have the widest legal use, without special FCC licensing, will have high priority for investigation. As will methods not requiring commercial services within the LTER organization and field sensor locations. Connection of data via sensors and linking to the Internet via satellite links will be developed and tested, in order to develop a model applicable to any study site in the world, whether it can be reached with terrestrial wireless networks or not.

As lessons are learned from the initial experiments, and cost-effectiveness of various methodologies are learned, bolder attempts to collect and compare data from locations hitherto inaccessible or for which modified sensors from other scientific discipl ines might be appropriate will be attempted within the time and funding of this project.

This project can develop hitherto untried models of remote data collection for biological research by exploiting emerging wireless technologies and new forms of low power devices which have emerged over the last 10 years since new FCC Rules for Part 15 spread spectrum, Ultra Wide Band, and other types of transmissions have been promulgated, devices manufactured, and new satellite services launched.