article / 1 March 2017

#Tech4Wildlife Photo Challenge: Our favourites from 2016

Are you ready for this year's #Tech4Wildlife Photo Challenge? In anticipation, we're counting down our ten favourite entries from last year. Do you think you can top these?

On 3 March 2017 we will be celebrating World Wildlife Day by asking our community to share photos showing how their tech tools are being used in the field or the lab, using the #Tech4Wildlife hastag. We're only a few days away from our second annual event and can't wait to see what tech you've been using this year to help wildlife!

To participate this year, all you need to do is: 

  1. Take a photo of how you are using tech to save wildlife
  2. Share it on Twitter: tell us a bit about your work and the tech featured
  3. Remember to use the hashtag #Tech4Wildlife and tag us at @WILDLABSNET

Last year, our community shared hundreds of photos and videos from the field. In the first 10 days we saw 1500+ tweets from 500 users, with 185 photos and 12 videos posted. We saw everything from infrared cameras for tracking poachers and acoustic bat recorders in the middle of New York City, to mobile frog labs and portable DNA sequencers to save endangered amphibians.

It was difficult to pick just ten favourites, but here they are!

10. Geoff York: Tech to Monitor Polar Bear Denning Behaviour

Geoff York and the Polar Bears International use remote cameras to monitor polar bear denning behaviour. The Pelican cooler you can see in the photo protects the video system from the cold (down to -40 C) and curious wildlife. 

Using technology to monitor polar bear denning behavior. #Tech4Wildlife @WILDLABSNET

— Geoff York (@GeoffYork) March 7, 2016

9. Mara Cheetah Project: Spot-A-Cat App

Spot-A-Cat is an app that allows users to record cheetah sightings across Africa. Recorded sightings are sent to a central database that will be used to determine cheetah range and distribution. The sightings recorded in Keyna and Tanzania are used to monitor specific individuals. 

Help monitor #cheetahs by using our Spot-A-Cat app #Tech4Wildlife @WILDLABSNET

— Mara Cheetah Project (@MaraCheetahs) March 2, 2016

8. Kaitlyn Parkins: Acoustic Monitoring for Bats in NYC 

Kaitlyn Parkins shared an ongoing project with Bronx Zoo, NYC Audubon and Fordham University to monitor the bats of New York City. She reported that the project had recorded 5 out of 9 possible species so far: hoary, big brown, eastern red, silver-haired and tri-colored bats.  

Acoustics allow us to study bats in places where traps/nets just won't work. Like the middle of #NYC #tech4wildlife

— KP (@kait_lorraine) March 1, 2016

7. David Steen: X-ray to Detect Fish Hooks in Turtles

David Steen used x-ray to uncover the prevalence of ingested fish-hooks in fresh-water turtles. He looked at four species, 600 individuals from five rivers in the southeastern United States for the study. According to his study, depending on the species, sex, and age class, 0–33% of turtles contained ingested fish hooks. For some species, larger turtles were more likely to contain a fish hook than smaller individuals. Freshwater turtle demography suggests that even small increases in adult mortality may lead to population declines. If our study areas are representative of other aquatic systems that receive fishing pressure, this work likely identifies a potential conflict between a widespread, common recreational activity (i.e., fishing) and an imperiled taxonomic group.

Ok here is some real #tech4wildlife: I used x-rays to figure out how many wild turtles had fish hooks inside them.

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 1, 2016

Whoa-this is today's surprise hit tweet. People like turtles.

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 1, 2016

@krwedemeyer @LizMarchio That's a soft-shell in the picture but four species/600 individuals were included in study:

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 2, 2016

@mattnj81 If it doesn't perforate body cavity, probably, although we don't really have much data on the subject.

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 1, 2016

David first caught our attention with his high-tech offerings in response to our challenge:

Here's me with some #tech4wildlife.

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 1, 2016

Nets aren't the only high-tech equipment I use. Here's me with a shovel. #tech4wildlife.

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 1, 2016

Almost forgot, here's me with Ziplock bag #tech4wildlife. My startup package is really low, just throwing out there.

— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) March 1, 2016

Although amusing, his posts and the other #lowtech4wildlife photos we saw being shared highlight the reality many conservationists face: although technology may be available, it can be expensive, unreliable, and simply out of reach for many projects. This is a big challenge our WILDLABS community is looking to address.

6. WHAPA: Camera Trapping and the Elusive #wildbum 

The number of camera trap images shared is indicative of how crucial this technology has become for conservationists. There were a number of honorable mentions, including Blair Costelloe's animal selfies and the treetop cameras of Roland Kays and Andrew Whitworth, but the lighthearted humour and diversity of species caught by the Wildlife Habitat and Population Analysis Lab of Virginia Tech was unforgettable. 

Camera trapping: #tech4wildlife that gives you elusive, secretive, rare #wildbum. The kind you could only dream of.

— WHAPA (@whapavt) March 3, 2016

We use #tech4wildlife all day, erryday. #Cameratrapping helps us study species all over the world.

— WHAPA (@whapavt) March 1, 2016


5. Syafrizaldi Jpang: Drones to discover Dugong

Syafrizaldi Jpang shared his project that looked to use drones to monitor Dugong in Aceh, Indonesia. 

Can we find Dugong in @FaunaFloraInt flight simulation of conservation Drone in Aceh? #Tech4Wildlife @WILDLABSNET

— Syafrizaldi Jpang (@beingindo) March 4, 2016

Unfortunately, the project didn't have a happy ending. But it was for this very reason that we are featuring Syafrizaldi's contribution here: it was one of the few submissions that highlighted a project where everything didn't go as planned. We know this is a common experience when deploying technology, but we don't often hear about this side of things. If we're to become better at applying technology for conservation, we need to be able to share both successes and also failures so that the community can collectively learn from these experiences. 

@WILDLABSNET Finally, the drones had fallen down #Tech4Wildlife that was a sad story of @FaunaFloraInt in Aceh.

— Syafrizaldi Jpang (@beingindo) March 4, 2016

4. Dani Rabaiotti: GPS Tracking Wild Dogs

Dani Rabaiotti is using Vectronic GPS collars to monitor Wild Dogs in a project with ZSL and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London. The collars give her more than just location data though, they also have activity sensors that track how dog behaviour varies at higher temperatures. Best of all, her post prompted an interesting discussion about collar models, design, and life expectancy.

Lots of wild dog GPS collars involved in my research #tech4wildlife

— Dani Rabaiotti (@DaniRabaiotti) March 1, 2016

These also have activity sensors that let me know how dog behaviour varies at higher temperatures #tech4wildlife

— Dani Rabaiotti (@DaniRabaiotti) March 1, 2016

@Cassie_Raby They aren't continuously taking measurements so we get ~1 year out of them give or take

— Dani Rabaiotti (@DaniRabaiotti) March 1, 2016

@Cassie_Raby In the least smug way possible, they are pretty awesome, bar the dodgy temperature sensors which definitely react to body heat

— Dani Rabaiotti (@DaniRabaiotti) March 1, 2016

@seriouswildlife @AnneWHilborn We use Vectronics - they work well given how tough the dogs can be on the collars!

— Dani Rabaiotti (@DaniRabaiotti) March 1, 2016

3. Blair Costelloe: #robotcheetah

Blair was close to taking out the coveted top spot with #robotcheetah, simply because it's a project that you cannot forget. We loved how her project highlighted the delightful creativity and experimentation that using technology with wildlife can inspire.

Blair created robot cheetah (and sidekick #monkeybot) to study anti-predator responses in gazelle. It turned out be a surprisingly effective "predator" stimulous, with gazelle racting more strongly to #robotcheetah than to the #monkeybot control. Blair hand made the cheetah part (wire skeleton, fabric skin), and the 'guts' are a second-hand RC car bought off ebay. 

#tech4wildlife? Allow me to present #robotcheetah, a puppet/RC car I used to study gazelle antipredator responses

— Blair Costelloe (@BlairRCostelloe) March 1, 2016

@BlairRCostelloe And #robocheetah's sidekick/experimental control, #monkeybot! #tech4wildlife

— Blair Costelloe (@BlairRCostelloe) March 1, 2016

2. Jonathan Kolby: Endangered Frog Rescue

Jonathan Kolby is a National Geographic Explorer and director of the Honduras Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Centre, working to prevent the extinction of endangered Honduran Frogs. He shared photos of the work he and his team are doing to monitor critically endangered frogs and reduce the threat of the amphibian chytrid fungus, a pathogen spreading around the world that is causing global amphibian declines and extinctions. Their rescue labs (shown below in the shipping container) provide a disease free environment where frogs can be protected from chytrid and prepared for reintroduction into the wild. 

My #frog rescue team @HondurasARCC is testing VI Alpha Tags to monitor #endangered frogs #tech4wildlife @WILDLABSNET

— Jonathan Kolby (@MyFrogCroaked) March 28, 2016

Basic #tech4wildlife to save species from extinction! #frog rescue lab inside ocean shipping ctner #WorldWildlifeDay

— Jonathan Kolby (@MyFrogCroaked) March 3, 2016

We used mini radio transmitters to find out where our #frogs go! #tech4wildlife #herpetology

— Jonathan Kolby (@MyFrogCroaked) March 2, 2016

Attaching the mini radio transmitters to my #frogs was an exciting group activity! #tech4wildlife #WorldWildlifeDay

— Jonathan Kolby (@MyFrogCroaked) March 3, 2016

1. Aditya Gangadharan: Elephants vs Camera Traps

While the original image Aditya Gangadharan shared was rather unassuming, we dug a little deeper to uncover a true tale of woe. His story takes our top spot because it such a perfect example of the unexpected challenges that come when trying to deploy technology in field conditions. 

Tech for wildlife? Heres a hi-tech armored camera trap topped with a low-tech blob of elephant dung: #tech4wildlife

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

@AdityaGangadh any reason in particular for the elephant dung? Or was it for scale.. #tech4wildlife

— Stephanie O'Donnell (@Steph_ODonnell) March 1, 2016

Well its a long and frustrating story...Elephants dont like camera traps, and kept smashing them: @Steph_ODonnell

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

Custom local built armoured cases often save the data card, but not the camera itself: @Steph_ODonnell

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

So I said maybe it'll help if cameras smell like them. Filled my backpack w fresh elephant dung (all my assistants refused!) @Steph_ODonnell

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

And painstakingly smeared cameras w/ dung. But I underestimated elephant intelligence they know when something dont belong @Steph_ODonnell

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

But, they also seem to know when something DOES belong. They never damaged cameras within tea/rubber plantations:

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

Unquestionably a #fieldworkfail. Tusk approaching camera (L), Tusk smashing camera (R). @Steph_ODonnell

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) March 1, 2016

Number 1 reason for camera trap failure: elephants #WildlifeAgainstTech

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) September 23, 2016

Elephants prefer to smash cameras during the south-west monsoon:

— Aditya Gangadharan (@AdityaGangadh) October 4, 2016

Share your #Tech4Wildlife Photos this World Wildlife Day

Our second annual #Tech4Wildlife Photo Challenge launches this World Wildlife Day: 3 March 2017. Are you using technology in your work? We want to hear from you: snap a pic and post it with the #Tech4Wildlife hashtag. We can't wait to check out the photos you post!

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