April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Demonstrations: Description

Farallones Webcam

Kathi Koontz, California Academy of Sciences, USA

Launching a webcam with multiple organizations, seasonally dependent access, and weather permitting, with a network that could support a distance of 28 miles across water through thick fog is as logistically challenging as it sounds. However, the folks at the California Academy of Sciences were ready to do just that with the Farallones Cam.

The California Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and PRBO Conservation Science partnered together to launch a live streaming webcam - atop a lighthouse on the Farallon Islands.

These rocky islands, exposed on all sides to the mighty Pacific Ocean, are 27 miles off the Golden Gate, within San Francisco city and county limits, and barely visible at the horizon on a clear day. The Farallones have a rich and diverse history. During the 19th and 20th centuries, humans exploited and devastated the wildlife on these islands. Elephant seals and fur seals were hunted for meat, oil and pelts. Eggers during the Gold Rush harvested murre eggs for San Francisco. Murres, which lay a single egg, went from an estimated population of one million to almost zero by 1900, and several other species were locally extirpated. In 1909, Theodore Roosevelt established the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, the Farallones are home to a diverse array of seabirds, marine mammals, and other oceanic life. They form the largest breeding seabird colonies in the continental US, south of Alaska. The Farallones have three biological seasons. In the winter, December through February, fierce storms occur during the elephant seal pupping season. During the summer, March through August, seabirds are breeding. In the fall, September through November, transient wildlife is monitored (cetaceans, white sharks, bats, butterflies and songbirds).

The Farallones are closed to the general public except for boat tours that circle the Farallones and allow passengers to view the islands and breeding colonies from a distance. The webcam is thus a valuable tool not only for scientists, but for casual observers as well. "The wildlife observations that we glean from this webcam will assist with ongoing research, guide conservation decisions, and hopefully inspire citizens to care about this valuable resource right in San Francisco’s backyard." says Dr. Jack Dumbacher, Curator of ornithology and mammalogy at the California Academy of Sciences.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - III [Close Up]

Keywords: San Francisco, Farallon Islands, webcam, technology, interactive, California Academy of Sciences