International WildTrack Workshop 2020: senseFly Recap
WildTrack, with the help of senseFly and the JMP Division of SAS software, is racing to help solve the unprecedented collapse of global biodiversity. Their mission is critical, as biodiversity provides the world with all the essential elements of life, including fresh air, clean water, fertile soil, food, medicines and natural raw materials.
What is WildTrack?
WildTrack, a non-profit organization dedicated to non-invasive wildlife monitoring, created a unique solution for wildlife monitoring that combines its cutting-edge Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) with senseFly fixed-wing drones. It was co-founded in 2004 by Dr. Sky Alibhai and Dr. Zoe Jewell, Principal Research Associates in the JMP Division of SAS software and adjunct faculty at Duke University.
Jewell and Alibhai, a veterinarian and wildlife biologist, had been working for many years in Africa monitoring black and white rhino. While in Zimbabwe, in the early 1990’s, they collected and presented data to show that invasive monitoring techniques, such as fitting transmitters on black rhino, contributed to infertility in female rhinos.
About the WildTrack Workshop
During the last week of February, senseFly was honored to attend and present at the first-ever WildTrack international workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss conservation efforts from the ground up, to collaborate on efforts that could help overcome the challenges conservationists face today and to work together to devise solutions in the new decade.
The event was held at SAS Institute headquarters in Cary, North Carolina and brought together researchers, government institutions and academics from around the world. senseFly’s U.S. team attended to support WildTrack and present a segment about how drone technology can and is being used in wildlife conservation and monitoring.
The workshop kicked off with an introduction from Jewell, who welcomed all attendees and announced the challenges facing their work.
“Under our watch, the other species with whom we share our planet are going extinct,” said Jewell. “Extinctions are taking place at up to 10,000 times background rates. Humans and their domestic animals now comprise more than 95% of vertebrate biomass on Earth.”
Her introduction was followed by a brief speech from SAS’s co-founder and JMP software founder John Sall, who also welcomed attendees. He explained the history and relationship between SAS, JMP and WildTrack. He also explained how JMP developed the data visualization software that’s used with WildTrack’s FIT algorithm.
Presentation: Duke Professor Stuart Pimm
After Sall, Professor Stuart Pimm from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment took the stage. He too discussed the challenges and opportunities facing wildlife conservation. He also shared how species are going extinct at an alarming rate—10,000 times faster than background rates.
Pimm also highlighted that while governments are putting money toward conservation efforts, the reality is that no effective methods are in place to monitor their success.
He recalled his own efforts to track and monitor Giant Pandas in China. Currently, the most common method is tracking panda numbers and movement is by collecting and examining their droppings, a method that Pimm cautioned is unreliable.
Presentation: senseFly’s Miles Kelly
senseFly’s Regional Sales Manager for Government Solutions Miles Kelly later took the stage. He began with a brief introduction about senseFly and its position as a leading manufacturer of fixed-wing mapping drones. He discussed the different drones senseFly has developed, from the swinglet cam to the eBee X, and all the different cameras available.
Kelly explained the benefits each camera had to offer for wildlife conservation efforts. For example, WildTrack uses the Aeria X sensor for terrain mapping. Its high-resolution and geo-tagged images help Jewell and Alibhai identify animal tracks and trails and inform them of general animal activity. It also provides them with an aerial overview of protected areas for anti-poaching and animal management purposes.
Kelly also explained how the Duet T thermal mapping sensor can aid in anti-poaching efforts, too, as it can be used at night to pick up heat signatures. In addition, multispectral cameras, such as the Parrot Sequoia and MicaSense RedEdge-MX provide imagery and ground evidence that can’t always be seen by the naked eye, but that could prove vital to land management and conservation efforts.
After a successful day of speakers from around the world – including the University of North Carolina, Heriot-Watt University, USDA Forest Service and Piedmont Wildlife Center – the last day of the workshop began.
This included presentations from other organizations around the globe, such as Lebanon, Israel, Germany and the United Kingdom. Organizations included the Army Research Office, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Oxford University, Indian Institute of Information Technology, Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, and Tel-Aviv University.
While there were numerous topics addressed during the two-day workshop, the overriding message was clear: If we continue to destroy other species, we threaten our own existence.
Click here for more information about WildTrack.
Click here for more information about senseFly drones.
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