The structural complexity of tropical forests supports and contributes to myriad ecological interactions. However, multiple barriers have long hindered the human observer's ability to adequately witness and document nocturnal animal behaviors in the canopy where an impressive proportion of biodiversity resides. With the advancement of tree climbing techniques, concurrent with that of remote camera trapping technologies, it is now feasible to engineer and deploy equipment for extended periods of time to capture precise images and videos of rare occurences or behaviors by small, fast-moving organisms high in the treetops at night. These breakthroughs can shed light on arboreal plant-animal interactions, specifically pollination. For example, in tropical forests, approximately 80% of orchids are epiphytic; yet considering the immense diversity of species, detailed species-level understandings of orchid natural history remain limited, and oftentimes pollination syndromes are the only hypotheses available from which to predict candidate species or guilds of potential pollinators. Specialized arboreal camera traps can be designed to enhance our comprehension of rare and endangered species to support their conservation. Here, I will: (1) Present a case study on the methodologies innovated for documenting elusive pollinators of Florida's endangered ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) in the cypress canopy of the Everglades Basin, (2) Describe the need to replicate and scale these approaches across populations and species, and (3) Provide recommendations for the adaptation and integration of novel technologies for remote and autonomous biodiversity monitoring in the challenging environment of this high frontier.


arboreal, orchid, pollination, canopy, technology, innovation, biodiversity, conservation

Peter Houlihan

Presentation within symposium:

S-47 The High Frontier revealed: Arboreal camera trapping’s potential to unlock the canopy’s mysteries

Climbing to new conclusions: Innovating remote camera technologies and approaches for the advanced study of nocturnal pollination in the canopy