Installation of cameras, wiring and hard-disk recording systems at the University of Cambridge

Professor Nicky Clayton of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory and Dr Nathan Emery of the Sub Dept of Animal Behaviour

Scrub jays 08032007 115352
A planned approach
Tracksys have provided The Observer and cameras to Prof. Clayton and Dr Emery for many years. Recently, as their groups have expanded and moved to new facilities, Tracksys has planned and installed their video systems. Currently there are 46 indoor cameras and a range of cameras for outdoor aviaries, including a remote controlled PTZ (Pan, Tilt & Zoom). Some cameras are permanently mounted on walls and ceilings to provide remote viewing of birds. Video feeds from these cameras can also be recorded to computer hard-drive. Other cameras are mounted on movable cages and are easily connected to the video system by robust interconnect leads (combined leads for video and power). Cameras have fixed lenses, but these can be changed if the experiments require a different view of the cage. Other portable cameras can be quickly installed in a range of positions. In total there is capacity to record from all the cameras simultaneously at 25 frames per second, at high resolution. Wiring has already been installed in anticipation of the further expansion of the facility.
Hard-wired, discrete and robust
All wiring is permanently installed, except for the interconnect leads required for the movable cages. All cameras are robustly housed to prevent damage from the birds. Live observations and recording can be carried out remotely in dedicated offices; removing the possibility of the presence of the researcher disturbing the birds. Once recorded, video footage can be viewed on any computer and is used for direct observation and analysis. When more detailed observations are needed The Observer is used.
Time saving
Preparation time prior to experiments and video processing has been greatly reduced. Reliability has been increased, leading to higher productivity and satisfaction within the groups.
Research output
Recent research using the cameras and The Observer provides evidence that scrub-jays can remember past experiences and plan for the future – behaviour which has until recently been associated solely with humans and higher primates. Click here and scroll down for video footage from the study.
Raby, C.R.,Alexis, D.M., Dickinson, A. & Clayton, N.S. (2007). Planning for the future by western scrub-jays. Nature. Vol. 441. P919-20.
Dally, J.M.,Emery, N.J. & Clayton, N.S. (2006). Food-caching western scrub-jays keep track of who was watching when. Science. Vol. 312. P1662-5