AWS Public Sector Blog

Transforming animal conservation with open data and more on AWS

Open data is helping researchers and nonprofit conservationists protect vulnerable species around the world. In celebration of Earth Day (April 22), we are shining a spotlight on two sustainability stories from the AWS Fix This podcast from Amazon Web Services (AWS), a series which explores the ways people use technology to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Monitoring elephants in Northern Congo with open data

At two and a half to seven tons, the African elephant is a majestic animal, and they play a crucial role in the ecosystems in which they live. But elephant populations are shrinking due to human activities like illegal poaching and deforestation from logging and mining. One of the ways conservationists are working to protect the African elephant is through acoustic monitoring—the recording and analyzing of ambient environmental sounds to learn more about an ecosystem. The Elephant Listening Project, led by Dr. Daniela Hedwig, a research associate at the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at Cornell University, uses more than one million hours of acoustic recordings of elephant populations and provides this data to conservationist groups working to protect elephants in the field. These datasets are part of the AWS Open Data Sponsorship Program, which makes this data publicly available on AWS.

“We are basically eavesdropping on the elephants and the poachers in the forest,” says Dr. Hedwig in a recent episode of the Fix This podcast. The project’s current main site is in Northern Congo in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, where they work closely with the Wildlife Conservation Society. In Northern Congo, the Elephant Listening Project has installed 50 acoustic recording units in trees over an area of 1,250 square kilometers and has been recording for almost five years. In the lab, they process the sounds with automatic detector algorithms that help them find and count the sounds of the elephants in the region, as well as gunshots from illegal poachers. With this data, they create detailed heat maps of the distribution of the elephants and poaching in the area.

Listen to the Fix This episode to learn more about how the Elephant Listening Project uses and distributes this open data to protect elephant populations, thwart illegal poaching, and understand how ecosystems are changing in the era of climate change.

Transforming shark conservation research with big data and more

Since 1970, shark populations have plummeted by 70%, largely due to overfishing. And like most of the unexplored ocean, we lack sufficient data about how to effectively manage them back to abundance.

OCEARCH is a global nonprofit organization that aims to fill in these data gaps for sharks and other large fish. Their mission is to accelerate the ocean’s return to balance and abundance by combining innovative ocean research with education and policy outreach. In a recent episode of the Fix This podcast, Chris Fischer, founding chairman and expedition leader at OCEARCH, and Dr. Bob Hueter, chief scientist for OCEARCH, discussed how the nonprofit uses AWS to track sharks and other large fish to gather and analyze new research on shark populations, their migratory patterns, and more. OCEARCH works in collaboration with the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), which seeks to accelerate sustainability research and innovation by minimizing the cost and time required to acquire and analyze large sustainability datasets.

OCEARCH is transforming how researchers conduct conservation science. “We’ve democratized the approach to ocean research,” says Fischer. The large OCEARCH team works on one massive boat, where they capture sharks and other animals with special gear, conduct 24 research projects on the animal in less than 15 minutes, tag the animal, and release it back into the ocean. Then, they release the shark tracking data to the public in real time through their website or on the OCEARCH Tracker. This approach not only breaks down siloes between scientists, but also between the science and the public. Learn more about how OCEARCH is accelerating shark conservation using AWS on Fix This.

For more bite-sized stories about how people across the globe are using the cloud to make the world a better place for communities, animals, and the planet, start listening or subscribe now to the AWS Fix This podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Overcast, iHeartRadio, and via RSS.

Organizations and people around the world are using the cloud to power next generation sustainability solutions to create a cleaner, greener, and more equitable world. Learn more about how AWS enables sustainability solutions and discover more examples of AWS customers advancing sustainability initiatives around the world.

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