Our digital age presents new and interesting ways of pursuing biodiversity conservation. Not only have we gain the capability to integrate large datasets, we have also tapped into using mapping technology for visualization, projection and event simulation and, remote-sensing to determine and gather information on areas that aren’t readily accessible for man-powered surveys.
All these methods are essential in providing us information on our biodiversity resources. They help us answer questions like, what do we have, where are they found, how much of them are still there? We desperately need the answers to determine the right action to take so we can manage them well. Do you know that the conventional ways of monitoring animal species in their natural ecosystem, which is typically the forest for land animals, were difficult to implement and require more effort to be able to collect accurate data? Biologists sometimes use footprint count, fecal (poop) analysis, animal trapping for tagging and count, sounds, etc.
The 21st century information and photographic technologies revolutionized the old ways. Now we can use digital camera traps to determine the organism’s presence in an area and be able to monitor their status, whether they are in good condition or not. Camera traps are simply cameras placed discretely in areas of study. They are unnoticeable to these animals and only known to their observers. Take a look at these sample protocols on using camera traps to monitor mammals and birds.
Why animal selfies?
The animals get to have a selfie in the very environment they live in. This is an important information on their population status, habitat, health and general living condition. We need more data like this to be able to have a good estimate of our biodiversity. Moreover, the good side is, it’s a friendlier, non-obtrusive way of data gathering. We only need a selfie image.
Some animals are difficult to monitor than others. They are sensitive to outside disturbance and quickly become distressed at being captured temporarily, for tagging purposes for example. They may bite, scratch or cause harm to themselves and the people who are doing the surveys. Parrots, cockatoos, corellas tend to have such reactions. While there are others, like the feral pig, that sometimes become aggressive and just attack. These are important factors conservationists consider when monitoring wildlife animals.
Does open data help science?
The introduction of open data to science has benefitted us with real time and actual on-the-spot situation of important species. It involves contribution from people who have encountered certain species in areas that are being monitored, but aren’t officially recorded in conservationists’ log files. It’s truly helpful in gathering reliable and more comprehensive information. Especially at this time when we need to know about species decline.
How can we help?
Should you have images of animals or plants, terrestrial or aquatic, you can check www.Plos.org on how to share your image. Remember, we all benefit from this. We can accelerate research studies, verify information quickly and test significantly whether certain conservation strategies work. If we can all contribute what we know about our biodiversity, we can paint a clearer picture of what is really going on in our dwindling ecosystems.
Featured Image – Three-toed sloth, Bradypus variegatus | CC Image courtesy of Stefan Laube