Dr. Eran Amichai

Dr. Eran Amichai joined us at Dinalab this January-February. His research is about the sensory role of whiskers in nectivorous bats’ hovering flight. Neotropical nectar-eating bats hover in front of flowers similar to hummingbirds, to feed on the nectar inside while providing pollinating services to the plant. In this project, I investigate the role of the unique arrangement of whiskers these species have, which I hypothesize provide tactile information to the bat about its exact positioning within the flower.

Check out a video of his work!

Dr. Eran AmichaiEcology, Evolution, Environment, and Society (EEES) Graduate ProgramDartmouth Collegehttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eran_Amichai Twitter: @EAmichai

ValANTines fundraiser!

Send a message of love via our leafcutter friends! From now until Feb 7, you can place an order with us for $14 per word. We will send you a collection of videos of the ants carrying your words that you can give to whomever you want!

Proceeds help subsidize our scholarships for our local art+science residency program!

Pay via the following options and send an email to andrew.quitmeyer@gmail.com , and we will start filming yours!

if the ants are uncooperative, or we don’t have time to get to yours we will send you a refund!

Square Cash– use a debit or credit card  (USA) – https://cash.me/$AndrewQuitmeyer

Paypal – Paypal account or debit cards (international) paypal.me/hikinghack

Venmo https://venmo.com/hikinghack

(for venmo don’t write that it is for like “conference fees,” just write like “splitting cost of housing in Panama” which is what you are doing)

Credit or Debit Cards– (Only use this button below if this is your only option, and you need to add a 5% processing fee that Paypal charges)

Túngara model – now with sound!

Sound on!!

A while ago, I crocheted a túngara, a frog I hear a lot during the wet season in Panamá. I wanted to have my model make the distinctive túngara call, which sounds like a video game sound effect, but I didn’t know how. For Christmas, Andrew gave me a bunch of cool electronics that I can record on and embed in soft toys. He even loaded one with a recording of a túngara for me!

We opened the frog up and inserted the device.

Here’s a picture of a real túngara with its characteristic inflated dewlap.

I’m looking forward to making more noisy toys like this! Someone suggested a toucan, which should be fun.

Note: This post is by Kitty and is cross-posted over all my personal blog, wellreadpanda.com 🙂

DINALAB Jungle Residency

Photo of Sid Drmay by Lee Wilkins

Página en español

Gamboa, Panama – Various Months in 2020

We are happy to announce that applications are open for our new Art/Science/Tech residency program for 2020! Come be a Junglepunk!

The goal of Digital Naturalism Laboratories (DINALAB) is to provide a space with access to incredible natural ecosystems, digital tools, and prototyping equipment to explore new ways of interacting with other creatures. Our new residency program shares the opportunity to explore art, science, technology, and design for an extended period of time in the rainforest. Our lab is situated walking distance from the Panama Canal, the Soberanía Rainforest in Panamá, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

What we provide:

  1. Access to our prototyping tools and facilities including:
    • Laser Cutter
    • 3D Printers
    • Electronics and Sensors
    • Sewing Machines
    • Silicone Mold-Making and degassing
    • Power Tools
    • and more!
  2. Housing (Private Room at DINALAB)
  3. Personal Workspace
  4. Gallery Space at DINALAB
  5. Basic art and construction materials
  6. Small, unique completion gifts!

Your Responsibilities and Costs:
Unfortunately, we are a new, independent, unfunded lab, and cannot offer a stipend or travel support. We do, however, work hard everyday here at freelance jobs to subsidize your housing costs ourselves, and we even offer a couple scholarships. The basic residency’s costs and responsibilities are:

In 2020, we are happy to announce that we can offer :

  • 3 Local Scholarships for Panamanians (no fees, and transportation from Panama city if needed)
  • 1 International Scholarship (no fees, and transportation from the Airport if needed)


Applications have a priority deadline of January 10, and positions are filled on a rolling basis throughout 2020. Fill out our short form indicating your intentions for the residency and availability, and we will get back to you if you are selected to solidify your residency dates. If you are not selected, applications will reset in the next calendar year, and you will need to apply again.


Digital Naturalism Laboratories (Dinalab) is a jungle prototyping studio founded in 2019. Our lab is fully equipped with Laser Cutter, 3D printers, hand tools, textile tools, and more! The prototyping facility is located in the Soberanía Rainforest in Panama. Our goals are to:

  • Help field biologists build their own experimental tools
  • Help designers explore new interactions with nature
  • Discover new ways of experiencing the natural world

We are also keen on documentation and open-source dissemination of all knowledge in a variety of media! Whether you are a scientist, artist, designer, hacker, or anyone excited to explore nature and technology you will find something interesting at Dinalab.

Dinalab was established by Andrew Quitmeyer and Kathleen Kelly in 2019. They live and work in Dinalab while doing freelance jobs online to cover the costs of running the laboratory and hosting open workshops for local and visiting communities.

Bat Night Signal

Rachel Page’s Bat Lab at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has been hosting a monthly outreach “Bat Night” in gamboa Panama, for quite some time. DINALAB figured it was about time they had their own bat signal!

Gamboa Games

We are making a suite of open-source DIY board games. The goal is to find things that

  • are fun to play
  • can be sold to support the lab
  • make use of the scrap material from science project prototyping
Some of the character figures cut from scrap materials

Open Hardware Fridays at DINALAB

October is Open Hardware Month, so we are extending our normal, weekly open-labs! Come build open-science hardware, share, and learn!

Stop by Digital Naturalism Laboratories, Casa 123B, Gamboa Panama, the first several fridays of october to join us in:

  • Repairing Field Equipment
  • Laser Cutting Workshops
  • 3D Printing Workshops
  • Arduino Workshops
  • Jungle Bicycle Repair
  • 360 Camera Trap Testing
  • Jungle Yarncrafting
  • Whatever you feel like doing
  • and all kinds of Art-Science Design Fun!


Friday Oct 4 : 2-5 PM

Theme: Laser Cutting

Friday Oct 11: 10am-1PM

Theme: Bicycle Repair!

Friday Oct 18: 1-5PM

Theme: Arduinos and Sensors

*Thursday* Oct 24 – on BARRO COLORADO ISLAND – for open science hardware office hours

Panatrap: 360 Camera Comparisons (2019)

For our open-source 360 camera trap project, we wanted to evaluate the field and figure out what the most available and useful cameras to hack would be. We collected about 6 commercially available camera traps and evaluated them on their

  • Hackability
  • Image Quality

In our qualitative order, here is a ranking of those cameras we have tested and the order we want to hack them:

Camera type Object Pixel Density (front) Object Pixel Density (side) Distortion Sensitivity to infrared Price paid
MadV 127*127 133*133 None Lowest 300
Ricoh Theta V 100*100 100*100 None Highest 430
Samsung Gear 95*95 143*133 Some Low $83
Ricoh Theta S 100*100 100*100 None High 270
Zision 166*166 90*110 Most Low $60
Maginon View 50*50 45*50 Some Low $55

Basic Testing Procedure

Object Pixel Density

We took all of the cameras in a room with controlled lighting, and placed a colorful, standard-sized basketball exactly 2 meters away from each camera.

Set-up to test the cameras’ pixel resolution and level of distortion (after stitching the images).
Setup of the Theta V with the Ball 90 degrees to the side (the Theta V had the least amount of distortion after stitching)

Two pictures were taken in two camera positions, one with a lens straight in front of the subject, one with the camera sideways (or upwards for the Zision). The object is positioned at 2 meter.

IR Sensitivity

To test the cameras’ sensitivity to infrared light. We placed the same calibration object (the colorful basketball) at a distance of 2 meters, with the camera positioned between the subject and the light.

Xiaomi MADV (Mijia Sphere)

General Camera Details

$349 ($299 on sale)

Object Pixel Density + IR Sensitivity

The MadV has a resolution of 127*127 px when ball is in front of the camera and 133*133 px from side view. Its sensibility to infrared light is quite poor. With the target at a distance of 2 meter, it was not able to show anything.

Picture with infrared light



Ricoh Theta V

Video Stitching Resolution4K
Internal/External StitchingInternal Stitching
360 Stitched Video FormatInternal:3840 x 1920 at 29.97 fps (56 Mb/s MP4 via H.264) 1920 x 960 at 29.97 fps (16 Mb/s MP4 via H.264) 
Still Image ResolutionJPEG: 14 Megapixel, 5376 x 2688 (2:1)
Number of Lenses2

Camera per Lens

Sensor1-Chip 1/2.3″ CMOS

Optics per Lens

Maximum Aperturef/2
Lens Elements7
Minimum Focusing Distance4.0″ / 10.2 cm


Recording Mediax Internal Flash Memory
Built-In MicYes
Channels4.0-Channel Surround
Audio FormatAAC-LC

Exposure Control

Shutter Speed1/25000 – 1/8 Second (Photo)1/25000 – 60 Seconds (Photo)1/25000 – 1/30 Second (Video)1/25000 – 1/30 Second (Streaming)
Photo ISO Range100 – 1600 (Auto)64 – 3200 (Manual)
Video ISO Range64 – 6400 (Auto)

The Ricoh Theta V showed a resolution of 100*100 px, no matter which position the camera was in.

Picture with infrared light.



Its sensibility to infrared light is the highest of all the cameras tested.

$429 ($379 on sale)

Samsung Gear 360 4K Spherical VR Camera

Image Sensor2 x 8.4 MP CMOS
Lenses2 x f/2.2 ultra-wide lenses
Max Video Resolution360° Dual Lens: 4096 x 2048 at 24 fpsSingle Lens: 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps
Video FormatMP4 (H.265)
Photo Capture Resolution360° Dual Lens: Up to 15 MP (5472 x 2736)Single Lens: Up to 3 MP (2304 x 1296)
Photo FormatJPEG
ISOUp to 1600
MicBuilt-in stereo microphone
Recording TimeUp to 130 minutes in 2560 x 1280 resolution at 30 fps
Battery1160 mAh
Card Slot1 x microSDXC card slot (supports up to 256 GB cards)
Supported Operating SystemsAndroid, iOS, Mac, Windows (360 Video Editor is not available for macOS computers)
Wi-Fi802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
Interface1 x USB 2.0 Type-C
SensorsGyro, accelerometer

Picture with infrared light



The Samsung Gear has a resolution of 95*95 px when positioned straight front of the ball, and 143*133 sideways. This camera shows a high level of distortion at the latter position, and has a slightly lower resolution compared to both Thetas.

It proved somewhat sensible to infrared light, though noticeably less than that of both Thetas.

$82.99 (though as of September 2019 price went up to $200)

Ricoh Theta S

Picture with infrared light



The Ricoh Theta S has, just as the Theta V, a resolution of 100*100 px for both sides. Its sensibility to infrared light was a bit less than that of the Theta V, but higher than that of the Samsung Gear.


Zision 360°Panoramic VR Full View Action Camera

Picture with infrared light



The Zision has a resolution of 166*166 px when positioned with its only lens facing the subject directly, but the picture shows highly distorted when positioned with the lens upwards.

Its sensibility to infrared light was poor, only a bit higher than that of the MadV.


Maginon View 360

50 euros (discount price)


Type of camera     Full-spectrum camera for 360° spherical panoramas

Image sensor     2x 2MP CMOS sensor

Photo resolution     8 MP (4,000 x 2,000 | interpolated), 5 MB (3,200 x 1,600 | interpolated), 3 MP (2,592 x 1,296)

Video resolution     2.048 x 1.024 (30fps)

Lens     2x 210° super wide-angle lens

Aperture     F = 2.0 | Focal length f: 0.88 mm

Recording time     Up to 120 minutes with fully charged battery (without WiFi, 2048 x 1024 / 30fps)

Memory     MicroSD card up to 32 GB (min. class 10 or faster)

Connections     Micro USB connection

Power supply     1,300 mAh lithium-ion battery

Dimensions     137 x 45 x 14 mmWeight     83 g

Picture with infrared light



The Maginon has a resolution of 50*50,  and showed a bit of distortion when the camera is positioned sideways. Its sensibility to infrared light was similar to that of the Zision.

$110,00 ($55.00 in sale)

Panatrap-MADV: How-to Build

This guide will show you the steps necessary to turn a commercially available Xiaomi MADV (mijia) into a fully functioning, animal sensitive, weatherproof Camera trap!


Code is available in this repo https://github.com/Digital-Naturalism-Laboratories/Panatrap/tree/master/MADV


Physical Designs are available here for free download: https://a360.co/2nrPLd8

and included in the Github https://github.com/Digital-Naturalism-Laboratories/Panatrap/tree/master/MADV

Hacking Theory

The MADV designers made an interface on the bottom of the camera for the camera to be easily controlled with their included “selfie stick.” It’s just two metal electrode contacts that when connected it sends a message to the camera(the original selfie stick has a 220 ohm resistor connected to a button).

This is the key interaction to take control of the MADV. We need two electrodes (conveniently spaces 2 header pins apart) to connect to the Ground and a Control pin on our Arduino

From our examinations, the 3 messages you can send to the camera with this interface are:

  • Long Press (5 seconds)
  • Camera ON/OFF
  • Medium Press (2 seconds)
  • Toggle Recording Mode (Video to Photo, or Photo to Video)
  • Short press (0.5-1 seconds)
  • Shutter Button (Take a photo, or start or stop a video)

Cut out or Print the Design

You will need to cut out two main parts of the design:

The Housing – These are the parts that will go around the camera and Arduino, and hold all the pieces together to make the project function

The Weather Shield – This is a 360-degree transparent case that lets the camera stand up again

In the link and the repo, these are 2-dimensional drawing files mean to be laser cut from 3mm acrylic. The full 3D model is there, though, so you could 3D print the housing instead if you don’t have a laser cutter.

I kept the the weather shield quite simple in design as well, so if you do not have a laser cutter, you can pretty much just make a box from clear acrylic that goes aroundDIY

DIY Pogo Pins / Prepare the Contact Connector

Ideally you would have these things called “Pogo pins” which are little spring mounted pins that press against electrical contacts such as those on the bottom of your MADV. If you have those, great! solder wires to two of them with one header pin space in between.

If you are out in the jungle, and don’t have Pogo pins, though, we can make our own ones. You just need:

  • Standard Male Header pins (3 linked together)
  • Chunk of hard rubber (we used a piece of our silicone soldering mat)
  • 2 wires

Take your set up 3 header pins, chop off the middle pin, and stab them all into the hunk of rubber cut to the size of the area in the camera housing for the electrodes. Solder two wires to the outside pins. They should line up directly with the electrical contacts of the camera. The rubber gives the mechanism some squishiness, so you can ensure a good contact with the camera.

See the two pins have a missing pin in between, and are squished up with some silicone rubber.

Connect all the Electronics

Now you just need to connect the components together!

The camera has two electrical contacts you just put together. The wire running to the contact closest to the center of the camera should go to the GND pin on your arduino.

The outside wire contact should go to pin 12 on your arduino.

Now you just need to connect the PIR motion sensors.


If you are using a 5V power source,

simply connect the Vin lines on the PIRs to the 5V on the arduino

The GND to the GND on the Arduino

and the OUT pins on the PIR to pins A4 and A3 on your arduino


The code is all up at: https://github.com/Digital-Naturalism-Laboratories/Panatrap/blob/master/MADV/Code

This first, simple sketch should let you debug easily and make sure your PIR’s are working and your camera is triggering and shutting down correctly

  PanaTrap - MADV
  Debug Code for the turning the Xiaomi MiSphere (MADV) camera
  into a remotely controlled,
  PIR triggered, Camera Trap

/* in order to trigger the MADV camera to change modes, in theory you should connect a relay to your arduino, and trigger that to connect the nodes of the MADV
  //But we are trying to use minimal hardware, and found that if you connect the node closest to the center of the camera to the ground, and then
  //Connect another digital pin  to the other node
  //Initially set the digital pin to HIGH, and then when you pull it LOW
  //it will trigger the camera
  - Long Press (5 seconds)
  - Camera ON/OFF
  - Medium Press (2 seconds)
  - Toggle Recording Mode (Video to Photo, or Photo to Video)
  - Short press (0.5-1 seconds)
  - Shutter Button (Take a photo, or start or stop a video)

//Front PIR motion sensors
int fPIR = A4;
int fPIRval = -1;

//Back PIR motion sensors
int bPIR = A3;
int bPIRval = -1;

//camera trigger operants

int trigger = 12;
int gndtrigger = 9;

//LED for debugging display
int led = 13;

void setup() {
  //Serial for debugging PIRs
  // initialize serial communication at 9600 bits per second:

  //Turning some of the pins on the camera into virtual Power sources and Grounds
  pinMode(A1, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(A1, LOW);

  pinMode(A2, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(A2, HIGH);

  pinMode(A5, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(A5, LOW);

  //Camera Trigger stuff
  pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(trigger, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(gndtrigger, OUTPUT);

  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);

  digitalWrite(trigger, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW); //**Andy note A


// the loop routine runs over and over again forever:
void loop() {
  // read the input on analog pin 0:
  fPIRval = analogRead(fPIR);
  bPIRval = analogRead(bPIR);
  // print out the value you read:
  Serial.print("    rear:  ");

  if (fPIRval > 600 || bPIRval > 600) {
  delay(1);        // delay in between reads for stability

void critterDetected() {

  Serial.println("Critter detected");
  //Turn camera on

  //Take a photo

  //TODO: Wait to see if other critters still around
  //before we shut off camera

  //TODO: the camera will toggle between photo and video each time it shuts off, add in a toggle here



void onOffCamera() {

  //5 second turn on
  digitalWrite(led, LOW);
  digitalWrite(trigger, LOW);
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW);

  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(trigger, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW);

void takePhoto() {
  Serial.println("Take photo");

  //Take a photo
  digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
  digitalWrite(trigger, LOW);  // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW);
  delay(1000);               // wait for a second

  ///Chill 4 secs
  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(trigger, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW);


void togglePhotoVideo() {

  //2 second press
  digitalWrite(led, LOW);
  digitalWrite(trigger, LOW);
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW);

  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(trigger, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(gndtrigger, LOW);


Charge all your devices

In this build, the MADV has its own internal battery, and the Arduino is connected to its own re-chargeable LIPO

Assemble and Deploy

Now that it is ready, give the PIR’s a quick wave, and test that everything is triggering. Now set it in the target environment, and test it again by jumping in front of it and seeing if you can detect it. (You will have lots of 360 selfies with testing this camera).

If it all seems good, leave it there and come check on it in a couple hours or days and see what you caught!