Reporting back: Duke Blueprint Conference

Dear colleagues,

Hope you are all doing well, and are continuing to innovate, develop, and test tools to prevent and mitigate human-wildlife conflict and address other pressing conservation issues. Today, I'm writing to report back to you all on a conference I recently attended at Duke University in North Carolina - the Duke Blueprint Sustainable Tech Ideation Conference (http://dukeblueprint.com/). It's a completely student-organized, student-run conference that brings together undergraduate and graduate students to develop creative solutions (in a 24-hr period) in response to environmental problems posed. I was invited to serve as a mentor at this conference, along with a number of other mentors including academics, practitioners, tech experts and conservationists, to challenge and help students during the creative process and to serve as resources should they have any questions.

It was a wonderful experience where I learned so much and got to speak with a number of students developing really creative tools for for issue ranging from energy conservation to sustainable algae harvesting to tracking invasive species. Of interest to this community may be a group I engaged with that had a phone-based alert system tool that they were thinking of that needed a problem for application. As a potential problem this tool could be useful for, another conservation NGO colleague and I suggested they think about ways to prevent wildlife collisions on railways and roads. This group then ran with the idea and selected the concept of preventing elephant train collisions in India and Sri Lanka, and proposed a solution to both detect elephants ahead of trains on the railway tracks, as well as a complementary tracker to detect the speed at which trains are travelling, especially in sensitive willdife areas where they are mandated to slow down. The idea was well received and was among the top five prize winners at the conference. It was really exciting for me to see a student group apply their thinking to address a real-world problem that we could test and apply in the field. The group has since communicated with us about their interest in continuing this project, and we remain in touch. Once they have something tangible thought through and developed, we can then discuss testing it in the field. And a tool like this, if successful, could also be used and tested to prevent HWC incidents.

Overall, I was completely amazed by how well this conference was organized, mostly by undergraduate students who are also in the middle of taking classes and tests and, yet, were on top of logistics and other details needed to successfully pull off an event of this size. And most of all, I was very impressed by the innovative ideas that students came up with to address issues relevant to us. I'd love to see more of these opportunities afforded to students and other innovators whose inventions could help us in our work. Please feel free to comment and ask any questions about this conference as part of this thread, and I will respond accordingly. Thank you for reading.

Best wishes,

Nilanga

StephODonnell's picture
hassanpishvaei's picture