How CCTV can aid the researcher

Trail cameras have become recognised as a valuable research tool for wildlife monitoring. They are very good at indicating the presence of wildlife, but when compared to CCTV it can be seen that CCTV is much more flexible and capable of producing higher quality videos, especially at night. However CCTV tends to be used for large expensive projects, such as live streaming from osprey nests or bat colonies in caves, which tends to reinforce the misconception that CCTV is technically complex. In fact there are many areas where CCTV can used with only basic technical knowledge and yet can be used to great advantage.

Below I detail some of the areas where CCTV can go where few researchers have gone before, based on my own experience and my research with Natural England and the Woodland Trust.


The section on this website for the ecologists ( Click here ) describes how CCTV can be used for emergence studies and thus reducing the need for antisocial night work, but this is just one application. This year I have been monitoring a Barbastelle roost and using videos and time synchronised bat recorder information to analyse call structure and how it changes . By studying the bats on video together with calls produced at the same time it should be possible to to detail call structure for particular actions such dawn swarming, emergence, fly past and feeding.

The video below shows dawn swarming at a Barbastelle roost.

Marine biology

Rock pools are a microcosm of marine life, but the study methods used at present all have disadvantages.
  • Manual observation can disturb the pool inhabitants who are more likely to hide.
  • Removal of inhabitants for study gives little behavioural information.
  • Anaesthetising for fish counts has unknown effects on other inhabitants and also gives little behavioural information

Using a small submersible CCTV camera within a portable CCTV system can give valuable behavioural information without disturbance, as well as providing educational videos.

If the video below is speeded up, the top shells can be seen moving.

Freshwater fish

A submersible CCTV camera as part of a portable CCTV system is a new method of studying fish. As the system causes no disturbance (unlike electrofishing) it is possible to study fish behaviour.

The video is a compilation showing salmonid in a small area of a tributary of the River Bovey in Devon. Videos such as this can be used to study the effects of habitat on fish presence and is an exciting new method to study fish in a way that has not been done before.

Details of these research topics plus many other applications are described in CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring (see The Book in the menu).