It turns out that one of the most important things in the fight to save endangered species is data. Just good, plain old data of all sorts. The size of animal populations, the frequency and location of sighting, environmental conditions, the state and behavior of animal populations – all of this data, and much more, can be of massive importance to researchers and conservation efforts of all varieties.
You have probably already heard of crowd sourcing: where data collection is handled by a large number of people (a crowd) in order to get much better results and more data than would otherwise be possible. Crowd sourcing solves a fundamental problem of data collection with the help of mobile technology, enabling anyone with a smart phone or tablet to collect useful data which can be of help in conservation efforts.
Real World Examples
The World Wildlife Foundation is already operating a crowd sourcing program aimed at helping researchers better understand freshwater fish populations. The project, called Freshwater Fish BioBlitz, works quite simply: users upload their photos of fresh water fish and tag the location where they took the photo. The photos are then looked over by the curators of the program – expert volunteers including scientists and graduate students – who identify the fish in the photos and select photos for inclusion in data archives used by scientists.
The challenges faced by fresh water fish are quite extreme, with nearly one third of all fresh water fish species threatened with extinction. Conservation efforts must act quickly to understand why these populations are being threatened and how it can be stopped, which is where crowd sourcing efforts like Freshwater Fish BioBlitz enable researchers to collect data on previously unprecedented scales.
Such crowd sourcing efforts even offer the possibility of new discovery. There are over 13,000 species of fresh water fish identified so far, with more being discovered surprisingly frequently. An unwitting photo of a fish captured on a mobile could prove a new discovery for the eyes of a seasoned scientist, and crowd sourcing efforts are the way to bridge that gap.
Mobile Apps for Fishermen Can Help Save Species
Fishing has the potential to create devastating environmental impacts. We have all heard of the terrible consequences overfishing can bring, yet the impacts even small-scale fishing can have on local ecosystems should not be taken lightly. Uneducated fisherman catching endangered fish have the potential to wreak havoc on local populations of fish. In the hopes of combating this problem, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun a collaboration with the popular fishing app FishBrain to bring users a simple, all in one app which can help protect endangered species.
FishBrain is a comprehensive app for logging fishing. FishBrain collects all sorts of environmental data, weather conditions, water quality, and geolocation data about each catch, as well as detailed information about the fish. The app will now include information from the Fish and Wildlife Service to inform anglers about endangered or at risk species, helping them to identify locations which should be avoided and species which should definitely not be caught.
The in depth data collection of FishBrain also represents a great possibility for more crowd sourcing data collection to help conservation efforts. Simultaneously helping conservation activists to save species while helping anglers to reel them in, FishBrain represents an odd paradox in the quest for data to save species.
Help Conservation Efforts from Your Mobile
The Instant Wild app provides anyone who wants to help with conservation efforts an easy method of doing so. Providing access to a network of motion sensitive cameras around the world, users of Instant Wild can tune into live feeds to see the latest from these cameras as they snap shots of all sorts of different species. By suggesting identification of the species, users of the app can help build a comprehensive database of information associated with these photos, assisting in the tracking of animal populations and organization of conservation efforts.
New Ways to Track and Help Preserve Endangered Species
The possibilities for mobile activism with an aim at helping endangered species have hardly begun to be tapped into. Can you imagine any interesting ways your smart phone could help save species? Let us know in the comments.