By Amruth Chinnappa
This article is a part of the 2017: Changemakers Series
It has been an exciting year for technological advancement. The environment is one of the beneficiaries of this progress. From creating edible cutlery in lieu of disposables to recolonising the planet’s corals, science has begun to ease the load off Mother Nature. After a millennium of turmoil, it seems the least man can do. Corporations have played their part in this enactment which can be seen as taking timid steps towards a greener future.
IOT enabled wildlife conservation efforts
The rhino is in peril. People have targeted the beast for its horn which is widely believed in the Orient to have medicinal properties. Conservation has posed a tremendous challenge to the authorities as the horn, priced at $100,000 per kilogram, entices black marketers and smugglers to do anything they can to get hold of them. Although increasing dedicated manpower helps the cause, hundreds of wild rhinos are killed every year. The Wageningen University of Netherlands collaborated with South Africa’s Welgevonden Game Reserve to conduct a study on alternatives to prevent rhino poaching.
The researchers discovered that prey animals such as zebras, wildebeests and impalas displayed varied responses to different types of threats. Collars fitted with embedded sensors are attached to these animals to determine their response to tourists and poachers, designating them the role of unwitting guardians to the rhino. Through IBM’s IoT platform, the location, movement pattern, direction and average speed of travel of these animals are fed into a predictive algorithm to determine the exact nature of the threat. This early warning system aides in the conservation efforts of elephants, lions and other species as well.
Computer modelling to study the evolution of coral reefs
Coral reefs are a crucial part of the seas. They act as habitats to millions of organisms, small and big. They are also vital protectors of the coast as they absorb up to 97 percent of tidal energy. Without this barricade, the coastlines become dangerous and it can be estimated to affect more than 100 million people worldwide. The vibrant colours attributed to corals are due to the presence of algae called zooxanthellae. Climate changes such as warming of the seas expel these valuable algae and expose the calcium carbonate skeleton of the corals in a phenomenon known as bleaching. This results in a domino effect altering the local ecosystem. John McManus, professor and director of the National Center for Coral Reef Research at the University of Miami plans on using computer modelling to create virtual coral reefs to understand how a particular coral community changes in time.
McManus says, “Given a diameter of a piece of coral and a rough description, I can tell you it’s calcium carbonate load, the biomass load and the spaces for particular kinds of fish to hide.”
Having obtained this data, he intends to link it to his complex community model which combines geometric modelling and variables such as hydrodynamics to show the change in spaces for distinct sizes of fish. The data collection is done through a public undertaking by the Coral Reef Data Monitoring Portal which provides the necessary resources. A separate group of scientists aim to introduce a new strain of algae which are resistant to higher temperatures. Either way, its long past time for us to save these crowns of the sea.
The year played host to many other innovations such as the use of edible cutlery to avoid the problem of plastic waste in the seas. Although efficient, it might lead to another dinnertime debate on deciding the flavour of the plate- whether savoury, sweet or just plain. A local entrepreneur from India used high-density polyethylene from plastic bottles and converted them to 3D printing filament for its use in the industry. This is a veritable goldmine as tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day. Floating wind farms are another instance where huge turbines have been designed to work over the seas and act as an energy source. Environmental friendly methods such as these deliver large incomes in addition to leaving behind a small carbon footprint.
The potential for all these ideas is staggering as it would directly impact lifestyles throughout the planet. A successful large-scale implementation of these innovations seems to be the missing ingredient. The dire necessity in 2018 is to curb air pollution in cities such as Beijing and the equal distribution of resources. These are great challenges for data handlers and a knowledgeable application of IoT at a grass root level may let us observe the changes we desire.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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