In their presentation, Akiba and Jacinta will discuss how sharing community knowledge can help the next generation wildlife researchers and conservation technology engineers collaborate using tech suited to conservationists' needs.
A Hyena Ate My Project! – Open Source Hardware in Wildlife Conservation Technology
Featuring Jacinta Plucinski and Akiba from Freaklabs
Wildlife conservation technology is in a strange limbo. It can actually make good use of a lot of bleeding edge technology, but it’s custom, niche, and small volume. This means it’s essentially ignored by the technology industry.
Researchers operate networks of hundreds of camera traps putting out thousands of hours of video and images each year. Bioacoustics is yielding thousands of hours of soundscape audio that needs to be classified and analyzed to measure animal populations. They often require technologies that push the boundaries of what’s capable in terms of size, weight, battery life, and processing power. So far, wildlife researchers have either hacked off-the-shelf technology to adapt it to their needs or if funds are available, relied on the technology industry to build custom tools for them.
There’s growing thought that as technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, wildlife researchers can start to take the design and customization of devices into their own hands. This is where wildlife conservation could really benefit from open source hardware. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as adding Raspberry Pis to a wildlife project.
Hardware is exposed to a nightmare of scenarios like dense rainforest canopies, monkeys pulling out cables, animals eating enclosures, and poachers destroying any tech they find in the wild. On top of this, there are digital divides, gender divides, and a general anxiety and suspicion of tech.
For the past six months, we’ve been putting together training materials on Arduino and embedded programming for wildlife conservation. The goal is to help put together shared community knowledge that can to bring forth a next generation of cross-domain wildlife researchers that understand the biology, ecology, and engineering to implement or collaborate to create the specific tools conservationists need.
About Akiba and Jacinta:
Akiba and Jacinta are co-founders of FreakLabs and business partners as well as life partners. They’ve also helped start Tokyo Hackerspace and HackerFarm, a technology, farming, and food community in rural Japan.
Most of their work involves wireless sensor networks in remote locations such as the Himalayas, rainforests of Panama, deserts of Colombia, or rural villages on the Nile River in Egypt. They’re planning to create a nonprofit research institute on regenerative forestry and wildlife and environment conservation technology.
When they’re not up to their neck in circuit boards, they like to work on their hobby farm or hide in their mountain house.
Find Freaklabs on WILDLABS
You can also read more about Akiba and Jacinta's collaboration with Dr. Meredith Palmer on the custom conservation tech BoomBox system here.
Find Akiba and Jacinta right here in the WILDLABS community in their Build Your Own Data Logger forum!