Research and Data Collection

Our team of arborists and ecologists can assist on any canopy access project.  Contact us to discuss logistics, project design, training or safety.

Ecology work
Climbing ecologist working with nest boxes

Logistics for tree based research

Most canopy based research is  in relatively remote locations, often without phone coverage and well away from vehicle access. Planning is important ensuring you have all the necessary equipment and a backup of all essential gear. Just a faulty SD card can waste an entire team’s efforts for half a day or more.

Considerations when planning tree access projects:

  • Data collection equipment – cameras, tools, data loggers etc are durable, charged and with spares
  • Paper vs digital – data collection software needs to operate offline with forms that are flexible and project specific. We use:
  • . Equipment needs to be robust
  • Canopy access equipment – suited to the type of trees and height gain needed
  • Access specialists require adequate training and experience for the trees / vegetation and type of work
  • Weather – waterproof equipment and data collection tools. Consider fatigue and exposure & fire risk
  • Bulk and weight – how far and/or high does it all need to be carried
  • Communications – talking to the climbers aloft, to other nearby teams or the outside world
  • Emergency planning – What are the likely worst case scenarios and how would they be managed – rescue equipment and training in place
  • WHS / OHS Workplace safety compliance – Working at height is considered ‘high risk work’ all the applicable Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), Operating Procedures, Policies and documentation needs to be in place.

Camera trapping in trees

forest camera trap
Camera set – canopy based monitoring

The choice of camera when setting camera traps in trees becomes very important, as does the method and location of fixing. Once a project leaves the ground it immediately becomes considerably more expensive due to the added equipment, personnel, time and risk, therefore the equipment (particularly cameras) becomes critical. Ensure cameras are waterproof, batteries will last the distance, SD cards are adequate, the reaction time is fast enough and the type of sensors are suited to your target: If you have a fauna species that tends to move up and down the trunk then you may have a very high false negative affect from cameras designed for deer hunters.

Cameras need to be secure in the tree and aligned to avoid false triggers from vegetation and angled light. False triggers are commonly caused by movement of the tree and camera alignment is easily adjusted by curious visitors. If using an attractant / bait you will need to consider how long it will last, fixing method, the distance to the camera – any more than a few metres and many smaller species won’t be detected by the camera

Choose all equipment including cameras that are easy to set and use, once you’re working aloft everything becomes more difficult and time consuming, therefore little things like the way a bracket may obstruct a door or the orientation of the control panel becomes important.

Data loggers, receivers, transmitters, power

Keep it simple & over engineer – small failures can be very expensive.

The forest is a dynamic place, weather, vegetation, fauna. Once you move upward and start working in the canopy then you have additional movement (swaying trees), access issues, risk and expense so whether you’re putting an iButton in a man-made hollow or a full monitoring / sensors / phone / solar / transmitter setup in a tree, we strongly recommend the equipment is well engineered, comprehensively tested and suited to the task.

Data collection – software or paper

data collection form
ProofSafe digital forms – using a phone or tablet for field based data collection.

Treetec has been involved in remote access work and data collection for a long time, recent developments in digital devices, battery power and software has resulted in some great new options for field based data collection such as ProofSafe digital forms.

Paper based data collection is always a good option with minimal risk, there are a few disadvantages but they are manageable. Issues include: ensuring you can match digital files such as images or waypoints to your collected data, bulk – the size of paper and folders can be an issue when carrying lots of equipment, losing paper sheets, the necessary backup water proof pens and paper and the many hours of data re-entry with the added potential for typos / mistakes.

Digital systems such as ProofSafe ( now provide a way to quickly collect all data – images, text, calculated results and waypoints, using a single device. Any smart phone or tablet works, they work offline, in the rain and at night. Phones fit in your top pocket and are perfect for canopy based activities where paper and pen are not practical. Digital forms allow you to use drop-down lists for quick selection (and correct spelling), repeatable fields, easy updating of forms with distribution to teams and secure upload back to the office every day, with all your data amalgamated into a single, digital spreadsheet ready for analysis.

Digital systems have disadvantages such as battery life and equipment failures however backup batteries are small and affordable, also most people now carry a smart-phone so every member of your team could effectively be carrying a full backup system.

Canopy Access – project design

Every researcher knows the risk of trying to ask (or answer) too many questions. Treetec can assist in the design of your project with guidance on what is or is not achievable. What type of things are doable in a tree given the access, safety and engineering limitations.

The primary constraint is usually budget; so talk to us about your parameters early in the planning process enabling you to quickly determine how long a task is going to take, the type of equipment required and the cost.

Canopy Access – OHS / WHS safety compliance

Proofsafe data collection tree
Using a phone and digital form to collect research data whilst in the tree.

Working at height is hazardous, and in combination with remote locations it becomes very difficult to manage safety compliance. Treetec works with a range of government bodies on canopy access projects providing the personnel, equipment and safety compliance systems (and documents) for the canopy components of the work.

Treetec provides training for ecological tree access, this normally falls into two types of tree climbing – simple ladder access e.g. for nest boxes (4 – 6m height) or upper canopy work with all the additional dynamics, equipment, variables and risk that this brings.

The necessity for multiple climbers on site (primary and rescue climbers), with adequate equipment and experience usually makes it uneconomical for an individual or a once off study to staff these projects. This more complex and/or remote work usually requires external contractors.

All Australian workplaces must be as safe as practicable, Treetec can provide project management, consulting, personnel, equipment and paperwork to ensure compliance with the applicable legislation.

Melbourne Arborist