Technology 4 a Better World
“Let‘s put together a system that allows citizen scientists and machine learning to identify individuals. It generates the data that we need, but it also affords the public an opportunity to be engaged in the effort, and to get some feedback on the animals that they‘re seeing.”
– Dr. J.W. “Tico” McNutt, Maun Botswana
Founded in 2020, Tech 4 Conservation (T4C) is a Canadian non-profit focused on a single mission: to deliver and sustain value, in the form of innovative and effective technologies like machine learning, LoRaWAN, edge computing and more, to conservationists and researchers working to save threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems.
T4C’s goal is to deliver effective and innovative technologies to researchers and conservationists who can’t afford to fund or develop solutions themselves, with a side benefit of fostering collaboration between previously disconnected groups.
T4C delivers tools that contribute to stronger data-driven science as well as local and national level policy development in support of effective conservation actions. These tools and data are also invaluable when it comes to positively engaging local communities, and promoting local citizen science and conservation efforts.
PRESIDENT & DIRECTOR
As co-founder of T4C, Maureen’s deep expertise and experience in technology delivery programs is invaluable. Throughout her extensive career as an IT leader, primarily in the international commercial real estate industry, she has been responsible for a wide range of initiatives centered on business and technology transformation, implementation of new business applications, and applied innovation projects.
She has always had a knack for connecting practical, effective technology solutions to real world challenges. A graduate of McGill University, Maureen is passionate about “everything wild”.
“Technology can be tough – to find, buy, implement, operationalize, support and maintain. But it can be extremely valuable. I want to deliver effective, sustainable solutions that make a real difference to conservation on the ground.”
As co-founder of T4C, Paul brings focussed problem-solving to real world challenges through the effective sourcing and implementation of technology solutions.
A graduate of the University of Cape Town and Wits, Paul has served in a number of industry leadership roles including as Vice President Capital Projects with a wood pellet producer; Chief Operating Officer of an industrial automation company; and as President of a company engaged in the design and manufacture of aircraft structures for Boeing, Cessna, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Bombardier, and Honda Aircraft. Paul has also chaired the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada and has served as a board member of a number of companies, public and private.
A native of South Africa and resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Paul is committed to the protection and conservation of the world’s endangered and threatened species.
“Africa gives you perspective. It doesn't take a lot to make a difference."
With extensive experience in anti-money laundering remediation and transformation, Jennifer Arnold is CEO and Co-Founder of MinervaAI, a leading force in AI-enabled financial crime detection.
Formerly Senior Director of AML (Anti Money Laundering) Transformation Strategy at CIBC, and VP of Governance and Programs at Wells Fargo Canada, Jennifer is an alumna of NEXTAI, Acceleprise Accelerator, and the Creative Destruction Lab. Named to the Risky Women: Women to Watch list in 2021, she’s a frequent guest speaker and panelist at fintech-focused events, and she’s excited to combine her tremendous professional experience with her love of African carnivores—especially cheetahs—to help T4C provide next-generation technology to wildlife conservation and protection organizations.
“I'm in it for the cheetahs. Or that's how it started. Now I'm in it for the carnivores.”
A combat veteran with more than 15 years of experience in the Canadian Armed Forces, Sergeant Matt Kalil brings a unique perspective to T4C.
Following his service with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), where he participated in and led troops in a variety of missions from Afghanistan to domestic security and disaster relief, Matt became a Signals Intelligence Specialist, working in both operational and training fields. Currently employed at the national school for his trade as a specialist in Signals Analysis and Satellite Communications, Matt collaborates with national and international partners to improve interoperability and effectiveness.
Concerned with the breakneck pace of climate change and its unsustainability, Matt keeps abreast of the marriage of technology and nature, and he views T4C as a powerful pairing of these two forces in the quest to improve what we know of the natural world.
When he’s not focused on new professional challenges, Matt can be found exploring new (to him!) parks in Ontario with his wife and two daughters, trying new recipes, or relaxing with a good book.
“There's no reason tech and the natural world can't go hand in hand. It's just a question of will.”
“Tourists love getting involved. They really love it. I say to them, “Why would you go to all this trouble of sending us photographs?” And they’ll say, “Because it makes a difference. We love these animals, we love this environment, and we want to give back.”
– Dr. Kelly Anne Marnewick, Pretoria, South Africa
African Carnivore Wildbook (ACW)
Established in 2020, ACW is a sophisticated software platform that began with a simple idea that everyone who is fortunate enough to see and photograph a lion, cheetah, leopard, hyaena, or wild dog in the wild should be able to help contribute to its well being.
Beyond their obviously powerful magnetism when it comes to tourism, research has proven the immense value of maintaining healthy populations of Africa’s apex predators in its complex, interdependent ecosystems. But the data needed to conduct meaningful research and conservation action has, until recently, been difficult, costly, and labour-intensive to obtain, and the time frames between research projects often meant data became stale before it can be fully understood.
The sheer scale of the challenge lies in territories that cover hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, and the fact that there simply aren’t enough conservationists placing camera traps or putting GPS tracking collars on enough animals to effectively gather the volume of information needed to get closer to a state of continuous population monitoring.
Now, through ACW, literally anyone who photographs an African carnivore in the wild can become a “citizen scientist,” and can support the animals they love by simply uploading their photographs.
Using sophisticated machine learning technology pioneered by wildlife conservation technology leaders WildMe, ACW quickly transforms massive amounts of raw visual and other data into meaningful information that wildlife biologists, researchers, and conservationists can use to better understand, manage, and protect populations of African carnivores.
We at T4C are very proud that, since the release of this open source machine learning code, conservationists have applied these same algorithms to other species like ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), bobcat (Lynx rufus), Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), magnifying the investment in and impact of the African Carnivore Wildbook globally.
If you're involved in African large carnivore research and conservation, contact us for more information about the free AI platform.
If you’re a citizen scientist, visit our new ACW site where you can contribute photographs that will help directly in the conservation of extraordinary and iconic species.
Wild North Wildbook
The diversity of threatened and endangered wildlife species in the Northern Hemisphere is as extensive as the number of research and conservation efforts. The success of other AI-assisted identification systems, like ACW and LINC, highlights the need for a similar platform for iconic and at-risk Northern Hemisphere species.
Leveraging our experience in delivering the African Carnivore Wildbook across Africa, T4C has launched the new Wild North Wildbook. It currently supports the individual ID of cougar, bobcat and Canada lynx, with an aim to add many more species. If you’re interested in using, supporting or just learning more about this new Wildbook, contact us.
Conflict Mitigation Kit
T4C is developing a conflict mitigation kit that can be deployed as soon as a human-wildlife conflict threat is detected.
Many at risk species like lions, wild dogs and elephants, among others, are in grave danger every time they threaten or attack local communities’ livelihoods – crops or livestock. Having the ability to deter the unwanted behaviour before or as it occurs, is critical to preventing that individual from returning, therefore greatly reducing its risk of being killed as a result of these incursions.
Photo credit: Philip Briggs / Lion Guardians
The first step in conflict mitigation is finding the animal before it reaches a community boundary. Historically, the only technology available for that, a VHF or GPS collar, is notoriously unreliable and expensive. T4C is working with GPS-enabled LoRaWan technology, used effectively in the cattle industry, for a more effective, longer lasting and significantly less expensive option for detection and tracking in conflict mitigation.
A complete rapid response conflict mitigation kit includes detection, tracking and deterrence tools that leverage portable LoRaWan base station technology as well as a deployment process that ensures that the kit can deliver the on-time impact needed, using locally trained resources.
Wildlife and Environmental Crime
Risk Detection Software
A criminal is a criminal and one criminal network is much like another. Cutting edge software, used in the financial sector to detect and track individuals and organizations involved in illegal activity, can be used to detect and track wildlife traffickers and those involved in other kinds of environmental crimes.
T4C is working with an innovative software company to refine its AI to learn and detect the subtle nuances of these types of criminal activities. A tool like this would save countless hours of manual effort and deliver effective evidence to support the arrest and conviction of wildlife traffickers and environmental criminals.
Open Source Tracking Technologies
One of the most valued tools in wildlife conservation is the GPS tracking collar. It is also one of the single most expensive items in the conservation toolkit, and often unreliable. Innovation and disruption are overdue in this space.
There are existing efforts to develop innovative open source tracking technologies but that is just one part of the problem. T4C is working on a broader solution that focusses on challenges beyond the technology – reducing the direct effect on the animal, improving reliability and reducing cost – all by leveraging innovations already tried and tested in other domains.
Photo credit: Lion Guardians
January 26, 2024
Bennitt E. Automated identification of African carnivores: conservation applications Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2024) Jan 6:S0169-5347(23)00338-5. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2023.12.007
November 6, 2023
Cozzi, G., Reilly, M., Abegg, D., Behr, D. M., Brack, P., Claase, M. J., Holmberg, J., Hofmann, D. D., Kalil, P., Ndlovu, S., Neelo, J., & McNutt, J. W. (2023). An AI-based platform to investigate African large carnivore dispersal and demography across broad landscapes: A case study and future directions using African wild dogs. African Journal of Ecology, 00, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/aje.13227
October 25, 2022
Verschueren, S., Fabiano, E.C., Kakove, M., Cristescu, B. & Marker, L. (2022). Reducing identification errors of African carnivores from photographs through computer-assisted workflow. Mammal Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-022-00657-z