Technology—bane, boon, and hope as well


Pick any modern challenge and the thought of technology inevitably springs to mind—be it for collecting data, designing an intervention, or the solution itself. The same is true of conservation challenges.

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As we look back through the history of conservation, technology has played a crucial role, not only informing us of the seriousness and urgency of the problem, but also giving us tools to mitigate it. Without technology, we would not have been able to anticipate threats such as climate change and biodiversity loss, although some may argue that the challenges have arisen from the overuse of technology. Either way, if we need to find solutions to the challenges of the new age, technology will play a crucial role.

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Climate fintech

technology in nature conservation

Conserving nature requires developing an understanding of the biological aspects of wildlife, ecosystems and various facets of human behavior. technology offers important data collection tools. Advances in both hardware and computing power have opened up possibilities that were a dream just a decade ago.

Now researchers are able to reach areas that were previously unreachable, like the sea floor and deep caves, observe behavior remotely and, very importantly, analyze large, complex data sets. Technology also provided Tools to intervene to make an impact.

camera traps

Camera traps have advanced the conservation space in many ways. They are self-operating cameras that trigger themselves to capture images of warm-bodied animals moving in front of them. These images are then used estimate population the target species.

India’s tiger population estimate is probably the world’s largest tiger population estimate exercise. Cameras are used along with AI to identify poachers and illegal loggers and to monitor wild animals, particularly tigers and leopards, that may enter human settlements. In India, the Corbett Tiger Reserve has installed a range of cameras – from thermal to visual – to monitor fires, illegal human movement and the movement of wild animals such as elephants and tigers.

drones and rovers

Other hardware that has seen a lot of use lately are drones and underwater rovers. Drones are not just for monitoring and mapping exercises but are also used for discover wild animals. In the Indian context, drones are of limited use due to dense canopies and flight time limitations. Underwater rovers are expensive and have limitations that result in restricted use, particularly in India.

Geographic Information System

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have revolutionized nature conservation. GIS creates, manages, analyzes and maps all types of data. It provides the foundation for any type of mapping and analysis of complex, multi-layered data.

For example, satellite data from the last five decades can be used to understand how land use and land cover have changed over time. It can map ecosystem degradation rates, identify priority areas, and map animal movement patterns.

genetics

Conservation genetics uses cutting-edge technology to understand species taxonomy, study extinctions, and learn about population connectivity and corridors. It also helps in understanding the stochastics of the environment, like fires and cold temperatures.

Forensic genetics can play a key role in combating wildlife crime. Another important contribution of genetics is the development of management practices for ecosystems at large landscape scales.

Benefits of Technology

The list of technological applications is long and constantly expanding. Machine learning, data mining and computer vision have produced insights that were previously impossible to generate.

Technology has helped reduce inaccuracies and made exploration in inaccessible areas possible. It has helped us make informed decisions and evidence-based interventions. Technology provides us with tools that are adaptable, save time and improve the chances of success many times over.

Technology is at the heart of The Habitats Trust. All of our programs are strengthened by it. We work in computer vision for a better understanding of species, acoustic monitoring for elusive species, testing the deployment of underwater rovers, using satellite imagery and geographic information systems for land use and land cover mapping and much more.

While technology is not a magic wand, it offers hope to successfully address some of the most pressing challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss, that directly impact our economy and well-being.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)