Geospatial technology refers to equipment used in visualisation, measurement, and analysis of the earth’s features, typically involving such systems as remote sensing, global positioning systems for tracking and navigation, and geographic information systems to put spatial data together for analysis and decision support. Remote sensing technologies, in its broadest sense, involve data acquisition by hand-held and fixed ground-based sensors such as camera traps and acoustic recorders, and sensors on airplanes and satellites .
In this post, let me share eleven of my favourite interesting TED Talks about conservation efforts around the world that made use of geospatial technologies, in either conventional or unusual and exciting ways, and about technologies, both old and new, that tell compelling stories or show potential for conserving biodiversity. (Excerpts lifted from the individual TED Talks pages.)
Yann Arthus-Bertrand. . A wide-angle view of fragile Earth.
In this image-filled talk, Yann Arthus-Bertrand displays his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat — stunning aerial photographs in his series “The Earth From Above,” personal interviews from around the globe featured in his web project “6 billion Others,” and his movie, “Home,” which documents human impact on the environment through breathtaking video.
Patrícia Medici. . The coolest animal you know nothing about… and how we can save it.
Although the tapir is one of the world’s largest land mammals, the lives of these solitary, nocturnal creatures have remained a mystery. Known as “the living fossil,” the very same tapir that roams the forests and grasslands of South America today arrived on the evolutionary scene more than 5 million years ago. But threats from poachers, deforestation and pollution, especially in quickly industrializing Brazil, threaten this longevity. In this insightful talk, conservation biologist, tapir expert and TED Fellow Patrícia Medici shares her work with these amazing animals and challenges us with a question: Do we want to be responsible for their extinction?
Blaise Agüera y Arcas. . How PhotoSynth can connect the world’s images.
Blaise Aguera y Arcas leads a dazzling demo of Photosynth, software that could transform the way we look at digital images. Using still photos culled from the Web, Photosynth builds breathtaking dreamscapes and lets us navigate them.
Greg Asner. . Ecology from the air.
What are our forests really made of? From the air, ecologist Greg Asner uses a spectrometer and high-powered lasers to map nature in meticulous kaleidoscopic 3D detail — what he calls “a very high-tech accounting system” of carbon. In this fascinating talk, Asner gives a clear message: To save our ecosystems, we need more data, gathered in new ways.
Barbara Block. . Tagging tuna in the deep ocean.
Tuna are ocean athletes — fast, far-ranging predators whose habits we’re just beginning to understand. Marine biologist Barbara Block fits tuna with tracking tags (complete with transponders) that record unprecedented amounts of data about these gorgeous, threatened fish and the ocean habitats they move through.
Dan Berkenstock. . The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it?
We’re all familiar with satellite imagery, but what we might not know is that much of it is out of date. That’s because satellites are big and expensive, so there aren’t that many of them up in space. As he explains in this fascinating talk, Dan Berkenstock and his team came up with a different solution, designing a cheap, lightweight satellite with a radically new approach to photographing what’s going on on Earth.
Lian Pin Koh. . A drone’s eye-view of conservation.
Ecologist Lian Pin Koh makes a persuasive case for using drones to protect the world’s forests and wildlife. These lightweight autonomous flying vehicles can track animals in their natural habitat, monitor the health of rainforests, even combat crime by detecting poachers via thermal imaging. Added bonus? They’re also entirely affordable.
Fei-Fei Li. . How we’re teaching computers to understand pictures.
When a very young child looks at a picture, she can identify simple elements: “cat,” “book,” “chair.” Now, computers are getting smart enough to do that too. What’s next? In a thrilling talk, computer vision expert Fei-Fei Li describes the state of the art — including the database of 15 million photos her team built to “teach” a computer to understand pictures — and the key insights yet to come.
David Griffin. . How photography connects us.
The photo director for National Geographic, David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a talk filled with glorious images, he talks about how we all use photos to tell our stories.
Will Marshall. . Tiny satellites show us the Earth as it changes in near-real-time.
Satellite imaging has revolutionized our knowledge of the Earth, with detailed images of nearly every street corner readily available online. But Planet Labs‘ Will Marshall says we can do better and go faster — by getting smaller. He introduces his tiny satellites — no bigger than 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters — that, when launched in a cluster, provide high-res images of the entire planet, updated daily.
Source: TED Talks [www.ted.com/talks]
Julianna Rotich. . Meet BRCK, Internet access built for Africa.
Tech communities are booming all over Africa, says Nairobi-based Juliana Rotich, cofounder of the open-source software Ushahidi. But it remains challenging to get and stay connected in a region with frequent blackouts and spotty Internet hookups. So Rotich and friends developed BRCK, offering resilient connectivity for the developing world.
 Pettorelli N, H Nagendra, R Williams, D Rocchini, E Fleishman. 2015. A new platform to support research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology, and conservation. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation. doi:10.1002/rse2.1