VIVOTEK Watches Wildlife at California School's Nature Preserve

Peterson Middle School, in VIVOTEK USA's hometown of Sunnyvale, is part of the Santa Clara Unified School District, California, serving about 900 students. What is unique about the school is its 1.8-acre Science Nature Area, teaching students about the natural world, science and the environment. Beginning more than 20 years ago, Computer and Science Teacher Bryan Osborne supervised an effort beginning with a flat field. He constructed hills, dug ponds, cultivated plants and designed eight biological communities. They demonstrate a broad range of biological and ecological principles operating in the world: grassland, pond, swamp, redwood forest, riparian community, deciduous forest, portions of a chaparral community and a bog. With the advent of IP surveillance technology and a grant from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Osborne is now installing cameras to make it easier for students and educators and observe and study the inhabitants of this preserve.

The first VIVOTEK camera installed at the facility was located on a small island on the freshwater marsh and can PTZ to observe all areas of the habitat. Egrets often land in the marsh to hunt for crawfish, ducks may swim in the pond, and squirrels and gophers are also known to make their home in the area.

At the end of 2009, a 15-foot observation tower by Eagle Scouts was finished. Called the Hawk Tower, the elevated platform overlooks a commanding view of the baseball backstop to the south of the Nature Area. Five species of native birds of prey perch on the 30-foot fence to watch for California ground squirrels and fox tree squirrels that reside on the Peterson campus. To facilitate the ability to allow other schools within district to share this unique opportunity, a VIVOTEK speed dome has been installed on a 21” tall pole on top of the Hawk Tower. Any student within the district can control the camera and zoom in for easy identification of visiting hawks. At times, the students may even witness the hawks eating their prey on the backstop or the ground below.

As a next step, Osborne installed a PTZ camera placed underwater in the Peterson Pond. After being sealed in a custom-built waterproof dome, this camera was lowered into the pond and kept underwater as long as needed. Up to 10 classrooms at a time will be able view the pond remotely. Students will be able to observe the spawning rituals of bluegill bass, as well as crawfish and turtles.

The Nature Area is used by not only Peterson Middle School, but any school is welcome for field trip and events. Approximately 30 eighth graders and 30 seventh graders are working as Nature Area Guides for the elementary school field trips. The experienced guides spent Fall 2009 introducing younger guides in the fourth and fifth grades to the various field trips. They lead visits to three stations: Pond Study; FBI (fungi, bacteria and invertebrates); and "Who Dirtied the Bay?" Their help has enabled many more classes to visit the Nature Area, requiring only two to three parents to chaperone.

In the future, Osborne has more ideas for the VIVOTEK network cameras. A speed dome is planned for closer observation of the birds of prey and to study their hunting and migratory habits.

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