University of Oulu

Kuusela, E. and Lämsä, J. (2016), A low-cost, computer-controlled robotic flower system for behavioral experiments. Ecol Evol, 6: 2594-2600.

A low-cost, computer-controlled robotic flower system for behavioral experiments

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Author: Kuusela, Erno1; Lämsä, Juho1
Organizations: 1Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, Oulu 90014, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2016
Publish Date: 2021-07-05


Human observations during behavioral studies are expensive, time-consuming, and error prone. For this reason, automatization of experiments is highly desirable, as it reduces the risk of human errors and workload. The robotic system we developed is simple and cheap to build and handles feeding and data collection automatically. The system was built using mostly off-the-shelf components and has a novel feeding mechanism that uses servos to perform refill operations. We used the robotic system in two separate behavioral studies with bumblebees (Bombus terrestris): The system was used both for training of the bees and for the experimental data collection. The robotic system was reliable, with no flight in our studies failing due to a technical malfunction. The data recorded were easy to apply for further analysis. The software and the hardware design are open source. The development of cheap open-source prototyping platforms during the recent years has opened up many possibilities in designing of experiments. Automatization not only reduces workload, but also potentially allows experimental designs never done before, such as dynamic experiments, where the system responds to, for example, learning of the animal. We present a complete system with hardware and software, and it can be used as such in various experiments requiring feeders and collection of visitation data. Use of the system is not limited to any particular experimental setup or even species.

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Series: Ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2045-7758
ISSN-E: 2045-7758
ISSN-L: 2045-7758
Volume: 6
Issue: 8
Pages: 2594 - 2600
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2062
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: We thank the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Oskar Öflunds stiftelse, Oulu University Scholarship Foundation and staff at Oulu University Botanical Gardens for making this work possible.
Copyright information: © 2016 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.