BoomBox is an open source, Arduino-compatible device that attaches to a camera trap (or trailcam) to create an Automated Behavioural Response (ABR) system for wildlife research and conservation.
An ABR system is a remote playback system that records and captures animal responses to specific audio cues. It combines the benefits of camera trapping (e.g., continuous monitoring in remote locations, lack of human observers, large data volume) with the power of experimental manipulations (e.g., controlled perturbations for strong mechanistic inference).
ABRs are designed to study free-ranging species responses to external cues, which may include the presence of predators/prey, competitors, or human ‘super predators’. In addition, they can be used to study wildlife responses to anthropogenic disturbances, explore species interactions and coexistence, and understand reactions to conspecifics, prey, novel stimuli, or human activity.
- System Overview
- Video Gallery
- Experiment Ideas
- In the Box
If you’ve never soldered or programmed hardware before, don’t worry, we’ll take you through it.
If you have a system already, click here for the Practical User Guide (pdf)
BoomBox is a device that connects directly to the camera trap’s PIR motion sensor, and plays audio files over external speakers when the camera’s PIR motion sensor is triggered. The system wakes up and plays the audio playback within ~3 milliseconds of being triggered.
When using and referencing this design, please cite:
Palmer MS, Wang C, Plucinski J, Pringle R. BoomBox: An automated behavioral response camera trap module for wildlife playback experiments. Methods Ecol. Evol.: (In Review)
- 1 – 1.5 months battery life (depends on trigger frequency, volume etc)
- Triggers directly from camera trap
- Audio plays within ~3 milliseconds of camera being triggered
- 16MB flash memory or approx. 15 minutes of MP3 play time. The number of audio files depends on length and quality of audio files.
- Audio tracks can be played sequentially or randomly
- Users can set the delay time between a trigger event and audio playback
- Manual or ‘in software’ volume adjustment
- Decibel level 80dB at 1 metre (adjustable)
- Comes with a rugged IP65 rated enclosure
- Programmed using Arduino IDE (open source, free)
- Detailed user guide includes experiment ideas, testing and deployment best practises, and troubleshooting.
- Open source design and source code
Theses videos are animal responses to predator / prey cues from BoomBox deployments in Grumeti Game Reserve (open savanna), Tanzania and Gorongosa National Park (woodland savanna), Mozambique in 2019 and 2021.
Footage courtesy of Dr. Meredith Palmer and her team.
Other deployments include Kruger National Park, South Africa, the Italian Apennines, Minnesota USA (and others) to study the effects of human presence on predators, mesopredators, and herbivores, human-wolf conflict, and animal movement and behaviour in urban areas.
Don’t forget to turn on the audio!
BoomBoxes can be deployed in areas of special interest, such as at waterholes or carcasses, to understand interactions at limiting resources; they can also be paired with other methods, such as camera trap surveys, weather stations, or biologgers, to contextualize how the environment or individual condition modulates behavioral decision-making. For some purposes, it may not matter why animals are in front of the camera, and as such, these devices could be baited or otherwise positioned in ways to maximize detection.
Some key areas for experimentation include:
Predator / Prey Interactions, Predator Responses to Prey, Predator / Prey responses to Invasive Predators / Prey
ABR systems can help understand anti-predator responses to present, historically present and reintroduced predators, and can be deployed along underlying gradients of predation risk, such as areas of high, medium, and low predator use/occupancy and across environmental features that prey associate with risk and safety. Similar experimental designs could be used to test predator responses to prey, predator / prey responses to invasive predators / prey.
ABRs can assess the mechanisms of competition and coexistence within trophic guilds and evaluate how loss or addition of keystone species affects intraguild interactions. ABRs could be placed at high-value resource units, such as carcasses, to establish dominant/subordinate status among competitors.
ABRs can be used to assess how species respond, negatively or positively, to human activity.
ABRs can positioned across gradients of human disturbance (e.g., in national parks, outside park boundaries, in human settlements, or in the same area during hunting and non-hunting seasons) to test whether human ‘super predators’ are attractive to prey due to mechanisms such as the ‘refuge effect’ (i.e., scaring away predators that would otherwise consume prey).
ABR systems may be used to evaluate questions that lie further in the realm of animal behavior. For example, Joyce Poole et al. have proposed using ABRs programmed with local languages and Western languages to see whether elephants can discern human dialects, as local people may pose more of a threat due to poaching than non-threatening international tourists.
Human WildLife Conflict
ABR systems can also be employed as an animal deterrent to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. ‘BoomBox Disco’ (in development) includes peripheral devices which flash lights and play sounds when triggered, with the goal of preventing crop-raiding elephants from approaching villages.
ABRs could also be employed to test animal responses to novel cues (neophobia/neophilia) and thereby test theories regarding the evolution of animal intelligence (e.g., Borrego 2020) or problem-solving abilities.
Please check the BoomBox User Guide for more details on experiments, set up and deployment best practises.
BoomBox v0.6 is compatible with the following camera trap models
- Bushnell Trophy Cam Model #119877B (verified, deployed 2019)
- Bushnell Core Low Glow (verified)
- Reconyx HP2X Hyperfire2 Professional (verified, deploying 2021)
- Spypoint’s Force-Dark, (verified, deploying 2021)
- Browning Spec Ops Advantage Strike Force Pro (verified, deploying 2021)
- Browning Strike Force Pro (verified)
|Power Consumption||0.8 mA in sleep mode|
38mA in idle mode
Up to 1 A when active
|Battery Life||1 - 1.5 months (depends on trigger frequency, volume etc)|
|Additional Ports||PIR motion sensor|
|Camera Trap Connector Wire Length||50cm|
|Speakers||2 x 2-inch, 4 ohm, 5W speakers|
|Speaker Wire Length||50cm|
|Batteries||3 x AA|
|Operating Temperature Range||0 to 70 degrees Celsius|
32 to 158 Fahrenheit
|Amplifier||3W/channel stereo amplifier IC PAM8403|
|Decibel Level (adjustable)||80 dB at 1 m|
|MP3 decoder IC||YX6100|
|Enclosure||115 mm x 90 mm x 55mm|
Has 'ears' for easier mounting
|Enclosure rating||IP65 |
Dust proof, and withstands water jets projected by a nozzle 6.3 mm eg. rainproof
The rest of the specs, such as the motion detection distance and recording quality, are as per the camera trap model.
In The Box
- BoomBox circuit board
- 2 x speakers
- AA battery holder
- Cable gland (provides water tight seal where cables exit the enclosure)
- 1 x IP65 enclosure (waterproof, dust proof). Enclosure dimensions: 115 x 90 x 55mm with mounting ears
- USB programming dongle (to load test and deployment code)
* requires 3 x AA batteries. Mounting and speaker enclosures not included.