A global relay of EcoHacks took place last month in six cities across the world (Sydney, Nairobi, New York City, Madrid, Cambridge, U.K, Washington, D.C and San Francisco) and was launched at the World Parks Congress in Australia. EcoHacks are hosted events aimed at bringing together experts (scientists, hackers, designers etc.) to create solutions that address new and emerging prolems for protecting nature and our environment through technology and innovation.
EcoHack believes that technology is revolutionizing the way we tackle some of the biggest problems facing earth: climate change, food security, conservation and sustainable development.
The EcoHacks were organized by a collaboration between World Resources Institute, CartoDB, and Vizzuality. UNEP-WCMC hosted the leg which took place in Cambridge, UK, where 20 people from software development, design, and science backgrounds came together to work on three hacks.
At the Cambridge leg, Jonathan Smith, Jamie Gibson and Frits Timmermans each proposed an idea that the Cambridge ecohackers chose to work on over the weekend – That’s my farm; Protected Areas from the Air; and Ecomotions.
‘That’s my Farm’ is a web app that allows a user to mark a boundary of their land, using the GPS signal from their smartphone as they walk around the boundary. There is great potential for this to be used by governments in countries where ownership records may have been destroyed or are incomplete, helping to resolve potential conflicts where there are competing claims.
Protected Areas from the Air is a prototype website that brings together drone enthusiasts looking for interesting projects and protected area managers. Drones are increasingly being used to provide more accurate monitoring of the state of our environment and protected area managers can use pictures recorded by drones to observe changes in the land under their management. Tapping into this source of visual information could contribute to our understanding of protected areas.
The third hack, Ecomotions aimed to investigate how far social media information, such as tweets, can be turned into actionable information for protected area decision-makers. A proof-of-concept map for Stonehenge was created, and could be used to gain a snapshot of what is going on in protected areas.
At the other EcoHacks projects included: the visualization of satellite data tracking the journeys of marine species such as seals, porpoises, turtles and dolphins; an app that alerts you when you enter a protected area anywhere on Earth; and a web add-on that allows anyone to annotate any piece of information on the internet with an objective of allowing scientists to annotate and evaluate the scientific accuracy of articles about climate change.