Melissa Clarke
Nisma Zaman


Environmental sensing via a hermit crab vivarium.

Desigining Living Systems

CrabSense is a living systems vivarium that measures selected environmental conditions and the impact of fresh greenery via sensors and hermit crabs. The vivarium was set up at the end of October 2010 and data was collected for over six weeks. Data included readings from several sensors placed inside the tank: carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, temperature, humidity and light. The two little hermit crabs, Aragorn and Arwen, were monitored via video and audio recordings. We found some exciting correlations between improvements in the vivarium’s environmental conditions and positive behavioral responses from the hermit crabs (details will be posted soon). While this may seem like common sense, seeing the changes in sensor values along with the videos of the crab responses, particularly to the addition of sphagnum moss, provides valuable documentation and emphasizes the importance of air-cleansing greenery in an environment along with proper temperature and humidity levels. These conditions aren’t just relevant to hermit crabs but also to humans.

User Scenario
At the ITP Winter Show, we presented a visualization of the live sensor readings (created in Processing) next to a Flash interface featuring videos in conjunction with sensor data graphs of five key moments during our data collection phase. The vivarium with the sensor box was also on display (the hermit crabs were hiding though).