Raspberry Pi computers help revolutionize biological research


Press release from the Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications.

A new article published in Methods in ecology and evolution shows how single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi are revolutionizing biological research and democratizing science.

Credit: Jolle Jolles
  • Over a hundred biological studies around the world have implemented low-cost Raspberry Pi single-board computers in a wide range of applications.
  • The great flexibility, low cost and huge user community of Raspberry Pi makes it an excellent tool that can be used in almost any situation and contributes to the democratization of science.
  • Open electronics like the Raspberry Pi help fuel original thinking, a hallmark of scientific advancement, and thus help advance biological understanding from the micro-scale to the macro-scale.

Single board computers like the Raspberry Pi have taken the world by storm and are used by scientists and hobbyists in every conceivable situation. The new journal study “Large-Scale Applications of the Raspberry Pi: A Review and Guide for Biologists” published in the journal Methods in ecology and evolution shows that these low-cost, open-source electronic devices are also increasingly used in science and are a key technological advance that will help further revolutionize biological research.

Examining the biological literature, Dr Jolle Jolles – who holds a Severo Ochoa postdoctoral position at CREAF, Barcelona – found over a hundred empirical studies in the biological field that have implemented the Raspberry Pi in a way or another.

The article shows that biologists have used these inexpensive computers in a variety of ways, both in the lab, in the field, and in the classroom, ranging from weather stations to automated bird feeders, closed-loop learning devices, and high seas recording systems, environmental monitoring tools and wildlife camera traps.

“The Raspberry Pi opens the door to innovative and creative solutions, which is essential to scientific progress, and helps advance our understanding of biology, from the micro to the macro scale,” says Jolles.

Raspberry Pi’s are used from relatively simple tasks, such as video recording and environmental monitoring, to highly dedicated solutions and devices, such as plant phenotyping systems and confocal microscopes, which offer a very powerful alternative. affordable to expensive research equipment that researchers may not have. budget for.

Dr Jolle Jolles has found over a hundred biological studies around the world that have implemented low cost Raspberry Pi single board computers in a wide range of applications. Image from a research article.

Pushing the boundaries of science

“Inexpensive single board computers allow scientists in countries or research institutes with limited research funding to develop their own research tools.” Ultimately, this will help accelerate the development of new methodologies and stimulate interdisciplinary research.

The study shows that open electronics like the Raspberry Pi can really play a key role in helping to push the boundaries of science and thus help advance our understanding of biology. However, the review also identifies that, despite its growing adoption by the scientific community and the wide variety of applications, the Raspberry Pi is not the common research tool it could be.

To help fill this technological gap, the document provides detailed recommendations, guidelines and considerations, as well as a dedicated website with step-by-step tutorials, to help scientists and non-scientists integrate the Raspberry Pi into their work.

In addition to its use in research, Jolles points out that the Raspberry Pi is also a great tool for education. This is especially the case for STEM fields, as by building their own devices, students learn the basics of electronics, programming, biology, and physics in a hands-on manner. In addition, Raspberry Pi can be used specifically to teach the scientific process, from the design of experiments, the construction of instruments, the collection and analysis of data, to the interpretation of results. And because of their great flexibility and large user community, single board computers are an excellent tool for citizen science and scientific awareness and thus can help bring science to the general public.

Single-board computers in science

Scientists are benefiting from a booming inexpensive single-board computer industry, fueled by the exponential growth in computer power and capabilities and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in recent years. Built on open source principles and driven by the nonprofit incentive to increase global access to computing and digital creation, the Raspberry Pi is by far the most popular single-board computer (over 37 million units sold since its release in 2012), and brings together external hardware, sensors and controller interfaces, with user-friendly programming capabilities, high connectivity and desktop functionality. It is particularly this SBC that has been adopted by the scientific community due to the large number of resources and online support available, and the wide variety of add-ons that exist.

Jolles has also used Raspberry Pi extensively in his own research, including automated recording systems for behavioral phenotyping of hundreds of individuals and groups of fish and long-term monitoring of parental behavior in wild bird populations throughout. throughout the breeding season.

You can read the full article for free here:

Large-Scale Applications of the Raspberry Pi: A Review and Guide for Biologists by Jolle W. Jolles

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. See it in full here.

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