Tom Matheson, left, and Nelson City Council's Paul Sheldon with the temperature monitoring equipment Mr Matheson found washed up on a beach at Monaco and returned to the NCC by tracking the serial number with the manufacturer. Photo: MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
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We occasionally get asked to identify the owners of lost HOBO loggers by people who come across them washed up in strange places. We can track serial number records and reunite these with their owners.
This article, Beachcomber helps out NCC was published in the Nelson Mail 27 Dec 2011
A Nelson scientist on holiday from his work in Britain was the perfect person to make a lucky discovery on the beach in Monaco last week: he was probably one of the few people in the region who would recognise just what the "little treasure" was.
Tom Matheson ventured out to comb the beach in Monaco, his favourite activity as a child, and see what had washed up after the floods.
The former Nayland College student came across a "little bit of treasure" in the form of a water-proof canister with "a curious piece of equipment inside": a small plastic box, about the size of a matchbox, with a flashing red light.
However, on closer inspection it turned out it was not that curious for the man who recently received a prestigious fellowship to help with his research on locusts at Leicester University in England.
While most people would not recognise the Hobo temperature logger, Mr Matheson knew it rather well.
In fact, he used it daily in his own research across the other side of the world, where it measured temperature in the controlled environment room which housed the locusts.
"I could see it was still functioning. I sat there and scratched my head for a minute to think how I could find out whose it was."
Mr Matheson rang the New Zealand distributor, and by using the serial number, found it had been bought by Nelson City Council environmental monitoring co-ordinator Paul Sheldon.
He emailed Mr Sheldon, who was very grateful for the find.
Mr Sheldon said the device measured water temperature, key to biodiversity and aquatic species health, in Poormans Stream, and had probably been swept down after the floods.
It was a key tool in the stream recovery project.
There are about 24 devices in streams and the harbour around the Nelson area, which monitor flow as well as temperature, and they lost a couple a year, he said.
"But most people who might find them don't go to this sort of trouble, or have the understanding of the system and know what they have got in their hands and how to track down the people who own it.
"I'm sure some people find them, think what on earth is this and then throw them away."
The devices are worth about $300 each.
"They're not something we like to lose," Mr Sheldon said. "But the data on the computer chip inside them is the most valuable thing, rather than the logger itself."
The devices are monitored quarterly, and this particular one contained months of temperature data as it had not been downloaded since last winter, he said. Ad Feedback
Thankfully, it was fine - aside from a few big data spikes from where the device had been temporarily immersed in the tide coming in and out, he said.
Staff would be heading out to check and fix other devices after the Christmas break, he said.