How do I start a Tech4Wildlife collaboration?

Our seventh Tech Tutors are BearID's Melanie Clapham and Ed Miller, who tackled the question: How do I start a Tech4Wildlife collaboration? Lessons learned from developing facial recognition for bears.

Watch it on the WILDLABS Youtube Channel!

You can also ask Ed and Melanie questions, discuss this topic, and collaborate with other participants in our episode forum thread, and see our collaborative notes doc here.

Date published: 2021/01/18

About the series

Introducing the second season of WILDLABS Tech Tutors, our series that focuses on answering the "how do I do that?" questions of conservation tech. Launched with the support of Microsoft AI for Earth, this series will give you the bite-sized, easy-to-understand building blocks you'll need to broaden your conservation technology horizons, enhance your research, or launch a new collaborative project.

Taking place every Thursday, each Tech Tutor will present a 30 minute tutorial guiding you through an aspect of conservation tech, followed by a 30 minute live Q&A session with the audience.

Tech Tutors is made for conservation tech beginners of all knowledge levels (and yes, even experts can still be beginners when it comes to tackling a new aspect of conservation tech or starting a new project!), and because we know that there's always more to learn in the #tech4wildlife world, that's why we're so excited to bring you a brand-new season of WILDLABS Tech Tutors! With presentations that will take you even deeper into those tricky "how do I do that?" questions of conservation tech, we hope you'll discover new perspectives and ideas to bring to your own #tech4wildlife work.

For participants, the outcome will be an increased sense of confidence in their technological skills, the ability to actively build off of the skills discussed in these tutorials, and an opportunity to learn and collaborate with other members of the WILDLABS community. Read about the first season's community highlights here.

Our goal is to customize these tutorials to fit the needs of the community and address your needs, so let us know what you want to see in this season and beyond.

Can't make it? You can find every tutorial after it airs on our Youtube channel.

Meet your Tutors: Melanie Clapham and Ed Miller (BearID Project)

Dr. Melanie Clapham is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Victoria, Canada, within the Applied Conservation Science Lab. She also serves as a Director and Conservation Scientist for the BearID Project. Her research focuses on using non-invasive research methods to advance understanding of the social behaviour of solitary mammals, specifically bears. She is especially interested in the application of conservation technology to advance field techniques for large carnivore research.

Ed Miller leads and develops hardware and software products across a diverse range of industries and applications. By day, he is a Principal Engineer at Arm, the world’s leading semiconductor IP company. By night, he develops a face recognition system for wild bears and serves as a director for the BearID Project. His main interests are the Intelligence of Things and Technology for Wildlife. In his “spare time”, Ed enjoys hiking, wildlife photography and watching the Brooks Falls Bear Cam.

To learn more about how Melanie and Ed came to collaborate through WILDLABS, check out their recent feature in the New York Times, Training Facial Recognition on Some New Furry Friends: Bears.

We asked Melanie and Ed...

What will I learn in this episode?

  • Barriers to starting a collaborative conservation technology project
  • Methods to get started
  • Lessons learnt from an example collaborative project (the BearID Project)
  • The next steps: How to speed up development of a machine learning project; using long-term datasets and transfer learning for the BearID Project

How can I learn more about this subject?

  • For a thorough insight on working in collaborative teams on ‘eScience’ project, check out Pennington (2011)
  • Review papers such as Conservation Technology: The next generation are really useful for assessing current thoughts on the use of tech within conservation. This one in particular encourages conservationists to become part of the process, and not rely on being just consumers. 
  • For further analysis on the barriers and strategies to success for conservation technology projects see Madin et al. (2019). While focused on examples from coral reef projects, this paper has many broad takeaways.    
  • WILDLABS has some great resources for understanding how to get started in this field, such as: 5 Key Discussions about the Future of Conservation Tech (Stephanie O’Donnell) and Naturewatch: Lessons from the field of app development (John Cornell). The latter is a great example of how to learn from the experiences of other projects, before getting started.   

If I want to take the next step using this technology where should I start?

WILDLABS! Use the community groups to research current projects in your area of interest. Contact those working on similar projects, and seek advice for getting started. 

What advice do you have for a complete beginner in this subject?

Working in interdisciplinary teams can seem daunting at first and there is definitely a need to broaden understanding across different fields of expertise. Some of the challenges of getting started need to be tackled by the conservation tech community as a whole, and are beyond single projects. However, there are strategies that you can put into place to overcome some barriers, such as assessing the priorities of individual members, identifying a shared problem, and being open about time commitments and availability. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions, both within teams and to the Tech4Wildlife community.

Additional resources from the episode

Here are links to the projects and resources mentioned during the episode:

Find out what the audience members are working on and look for collaborations - view the participant check in here.

Learn more about our upcoming Tech Tutorials

Visit the series page on WILDLABS to find the full list of WILDLABS Tech Tutors.

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Have a question for Ed and Melanie? We're hosting the discussion in our community!