Wednesday, May 25

Five Big Green Innovations: From Rodent Tents to Tire Dust Traps | Conservation

CCollaboration is key to developing new ideas, and scaling up those solutions is essential to making good progress in any field. This week Earth Optimism 2021, a global summit hosted online through April 4 by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, has been showcasing conservation innovations to help wildlife and nature.

The Cambridge conference is part of the Earth Optimism Alliance, a movement founded in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution in the US, with centers in Nairobi, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, which brings together people from around the world to talk about what is working for protect the future of our planet.

Speakers have included environmentalists and television presenters Liz Bonnin, Sir David Attenborough and Chris Packham. “We can reintroduce species, we can restore habitats, repair and regenerate… we have the answers and we have the solutions. Our problem is really simple, ”says Packham. “We are not implementing them quickly and widely. I firmly believe that we are now fighting one last battle for the world’s wildlife. “

Here are five environmental tech innovations from around the world unveiled at the summit.

Seabird protector

The Hookpod It has been designed to dramatically reduce the bycatch of albatrosses and turtles in longline fisheries by enclosing the barb of the hook until it sinks into the water, out of reach of seabirds in search of food. At a predetermined depth, often 10m or 20m, a pressure release mechanism opens the reusable capsule and releases the hook so that fishing can begin.

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“Initial tests showed a 95% reduction in seabird bycatch and a 50% reduction in turtle bycatch using a Hookpod that was opened at a depth of 10m,” says marine biologist Becky Ingham, director. Hookpod Ltd executive who looks forward to working with the fishing industry in China. , Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

Some Hookpods have already been deployed on Brazilian fishing vessels, and in January 2020, they were deployed in New Zealand, a global hotspot for seabirds. “Skippers have reported zero bycatch, so it’s more effective than we expected for commercial use,” Ingham says.

The Hookpod device
The Hookpod is proving to be very effective in preventing seabird and turtle bycatch. Photograph: Ben Dilley / Courtesy Hookpod

Each year, longliners fishing for tuna and swordfish set around 3 billion hooks, killing one estimated 300,000 seabirds, many of which are albatrosses. Fifteen of the 22 species of albatross and six of the seven species of sea turtles are in danger of extinction. Hookpod could help secure future populations of these marine animals.

Wildlife camping

Inspired by the devastating wildfires that hit Australia in 2019-2020, a team led by scientist Alex Carthey has created flat houses that could help native wildlife rebound when their forest habitats have been destroyed. Without shelter, surviving animals like bandicoots, a ground-dwelling marsupial, or small rodents are much more vulnerable to attack by predators like cats and foxes, and they also have a much harder time finding food.

The lightweight capsules are easy to transport to remote sites on flat sheets, then folded up and placed on the bare ground after a fire. The capsules are modular and can be connected to each other to fit a specific site, and because they are made from recycled cardboard they will biodegrade when vegetation has started to grow again. The holes in the cardboard let in light and also encourage the growth of vegetation.

recycled cardboard dome
The recycled cardboard capsules provide shelter for small animals that live on the ground in damaged habitats. Photograph: Alex Goad / Courtesy of Reef Design Lab

Biologists at Macquarie University in New South Wales will test the prototypes using remote sensing cameras for wildlife over the next several months, in areas affected by wildfires, to find out how animals use them. There is also the potential for cobs to be used in other settings where the habitat of the animals has been degraded, for example by overgrazing, large-scale logging or after harvesting.

Driving change

Every time a vehicle brakes, accelerates or turns a corner, the tiny microplastic particles of tire dust are worn away and released into the air or washed down the drains in the gutters. Tire particles are the second most common microplastic contaminant in the ocean, but a group of master’s students from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art have developed a clever solution. British start-up the tire collective was founded by Siobhan Anderson, Hugo Richardson, Hanson Cheng and Deepak Mallya, who won a James Dyson Award for their invention in September 2020. They have developed a prototype that can be attached to a vehicle and uses an electrical charge to suck up dust from the tires. as it is produced, before it enters the environment.

Tire particles
Tire particles are the second most prevalent microplastic pollutant in the ocean and the Tire Collective is working to reduce them. Photograph: Courtesy of Tire Collective

So far, the team has devised a way to capture 60% of airborne particles in the lab, and the long-term goal is to increase this capture efficiency, integrate it into electric vehicles, and reuse particles to make new or other tires. products.

A good idea

One of the biggest threats to cetaceans is accidental capture in fishing nets. Silver or toninha dolphinPontoporia blainvillei), dates back a million years and is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list; its closest relative is the pink Amazon river dolphin. Found in coastal and often shallow waters in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, these cetaceans are at particular risk of becoming entangled in nets.

Pinger to deter porpoises
Researchers from the Toninhas Project test a ‘banana pinger’. The device, when attached to fishing nets, is expected to emit sounds to deter endangered porpoises in Babitonga Bay, Brazil. Photography: Courtesy of Projeto Toninhas

Unusually, a population of up to 80 of these tiny dolphins live in the Babitonga Bay estuary in southern Brazil, where fishing is a key industry. A team of researchers from Toninhas Project is using photo ID to monitor the herd and is developing ways to use sound to discourage them from getting too close to the fishing nets. A small, battery-operated rubber “pinger” is connected to the fishing net that makes sounds that should keep the dolphins from getting too close, hopefully offering an easy, low-cost solution that can be encouraged by the local fishing industry. to adopt.

Game safari

In Kenya and the US, a team of conservationists, game designers, educators and even a “game teacher” are creating video games and augmented reality that use real wildlife data to encourage people to protect animals. in danger of extinction.

Invisible empire is a game created by Elephant Internet, which brings a decade-long groundbreaking study of animal camera traps to life in an entertaining way. The player can identify rare species in hundreds of wildlife photos, set up camera traps to try to get a glimpse of the clouded leopard, reveal scientific data, meet with researchers, and discover evidence that could help protect clouded leopard habitat.

Video Game Unseen Empire
Dive in and explore the Invisible Empire, where you can identify hundreds of animals in camera trap photos, from leopards and clouded tigers to muntjacs and Sumatran rhinos. Photograph: Courtesy of Internet of Elephants

Biologist Rafael Mares, who previously worked in the Peruvian Amazon tracking white-lipped peccaries, and in the Republic of the Congo observing gorillas, is now using data collected by other wildlife researchers to create digital experiences that he hopes will inspire a wider audience to engage with the conservation. “We need to focus people’s attention on the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation – what better way to do this than by using powerful platforms like games to make this fun, exciting and interesting, plus it’s worth it. ? ” he says.

Find more coverage on the era of extinction here and follow the biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for the latest news and features

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