When we hear the word “conservation”, which professions comes to mind? If you answered ecologists and biologists, you are correct. However, what if we added engineers, data scientists and statisticians? Unlikely as it may seem, they all play a vital part in a multifaceted approach toward the mission of wildlife and landscape conservation.
These specialised roles allow conservation efforts to leverage the power of modern technology. With these, monitoring natural areas, making real-time observations, and managing field operations are possible. The result? We gain new, better and predictive insights into the health of an ecosystem.
One key factor in implementing a conservation solution through technology is understanding the “Where” of it. Our ecosystems are grounded in the fabric of geography, and one solution combining all of these roles is using the power of geospatial technology. This uses location information to create, manage, and analyse all types of data. It connects data to a place and provides a better foundation for understanding patterns, relationships and geographic relevance. This, in turn, improves our understanding of the complex threats, opportunities and challenges facing our natural world.
With the ongoing efforts for conservation, we can benefit from this technology as it the most basic process of gaining insights into the health of a landscape, using aerial imagery. Satellites or low-flying UAVs help gather information about the area’s physical characteristics. This process is known as remote sensing and is used widely in conservation efforts to access areas where physical contact is impossible. These images combined with location information for a place give us geospatial data, which help significantly widen conservation efforts’ reach.
While satellite technology is very much an “Eye in the Sky”, it is always supported by technology on the ground through field observations. Today most ecologists use the power of the web and mobile devices like smartphones and tabs to collect ground information and update an interconnected database using the power of the internet.
Environmentalists now enhance their on-ground observations with technologies such as camera traps and acoustic monitoring devices. These help measure wildlife activity and understand their connectivity, distribution and relationship with local and global biodiversity, immensely adding to the knowledge body.
Advancements in computing and remote technologies have provided conservation professionals with the tools to reveal insights with optimised software, algorithms, applications and scientific workflows. Indeed, conservation efforts today are data-driven, and these technologies allow us to augment and enrich our understanding of the interdependent factors that lead to a healthy ecosystem.
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