WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Gathering votes

The Future of Photopoint Monitoring

Photopoint monitoring is a fantastic way of showing progress and a gold mine for restoration research, but all too often it's something which Conservation projects aren't able to invest in.

Volunteer Impact is seeking to make the whole process easier! With the explosion of cheap smartphones and mobile apps, we can use existing technology such as 'augmented reality' to make photopoint monitoring accessible to community groups.

Our research has shown that volunteers would be more likely to engage with projects where they can see their impact change a site over time. This idea brings that possibility to life for community conservation groups, with an app which would create short videos of the changing face of their project site.

What New Zealand conservation problem are you trying to solve?

Volunteer outreach, engagement and management and securing recurring funding, are two of the biggest challenges that Community Conservation groups face. To get photopoints set up, groups relied on individuals who had a speciality in photography, expensive equipment, or university researchers.

What makes your idea new and unique?

We are changing the playing field for Community Conservation groups by using the smartphones which are now in almost all of our hands, and bringing user-friendly ways to capture and present vital images and data that Volunteer Managers can use to tell the story of their project, and the impact of their volunteers.

It enables volunteer managers to reduce the time spent to do effective outreach, engagement and management of volunteers - automating the process of displaying photopoints as videos.

Who will use your idea, and how will it make conservation action more efficient or effective?

Conservation Project Managers and Rangers are the key users of this concept, however it could also be made available to all volunteers and members of the public who may go to the project site, to create visual montages and videos of the project site's changes over time.

Potentially the pictures may also be used by Conservation Researchers to see the spread of certain native and non-native species over time, creating a vital archive based on location, season and climate.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for ? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

This is a concept at this stage, so the grant would go toward a working prototype of the app.

$8,000 - UX & UI Design work.

$12,000 - building the app (IT dev)

$5,000 - user testing & improvements

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


Which category best describes your idea?


I have read the Terms of Use, the Supplemental Terms of Use, and Community Guidelines - see links at the bottom of this page


List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

Our favourite ideas include:

Flipper Finder: we love the use of drones to find Maui Dolphins! https://wwf-nz.crowdicity.com/post/160832

Saddleback In The City: this is such an exciting prospect as a hero project of predator control, led by the community. https://wwf-nz.crowdicity.com/post/160455

Beech Masting: as an acupuncture point to predict predator numbers, this seems like a great idea. http://bit.ly/1P50OxA

He Manawa Whenua - He Oranga Tangata: we love the holistic approach of this project! http://bit.ly/1KKj2Bn

Bird Sounder: Another great citizen science project! http://bit.ly/1MFnPEY 

How could you improve your idea?

A breakthrough moment for us was in conversation with Tim Arnold about using multiple photos stitched together to create a 3D model of the project site in question. We feel this would drastically advance photopoint monitoring for community conservation champions, researchers and citizen scientists. 

And it could all be done with smartphones which many project holders already own and use everyday.

edited on Sep 30, 2015 by Sam Rye

Glenn Shelley Sep 10, 2015

nice job good luck

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Neil Meekin Sep 11, 2015

Nice one Sambo....sending you good vibrations

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Sam Rye Sep 12, 2015

I'm intrigued whether anyone has seen anything like this before?

Augmented reality has largely been popularised in city situations where historical information and images are overlayed on 'reality' as people move the lens of the camera.

My idea came from a deep frustration of setting up and maintaining photopoints at Punakaiki Coastal Restoration Project over the course of 18 months. I ended up walking around with a print out of the previous season's photos trying to frame them the same through the lens of my camera. It seemed inefficient and I knew there would be a better way.

I could also see this being a research project into how best to set up and maintain photopoints in volunteer-led Community Conservation projects.

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Tim Park Sep 13, 2015

Hey Sam - it would be great to have a fit for purpose digital solution for creating photo points for ecological restoration projects - this idea has potential for international scale impact. There is an app called RePhoto which does some of this but I have found it's not fit for purpose or easy to use. I have been using NatureWatchNZ (on the iNaturalist web platform which has associated iOS and Android apps) and Googles PhotoSphere (which has recently  been integrated into a new app called StreetView) to collect photo point type info but again they are not fit for purpose. Parts of the opensource coding for the Inaturalist website and apps may be useful - I think they upload photos to Flickr for storage and linking to the observation data - this element may be a useful component for this project. Other attributes of the iNaturalist platform maybe useful considerin for this project but as it's based on species observation at it's core it would need some work. ThunderMaps may also be worth investigation but you would need to simplifiy their data storage and retrieval systems. 

QE2 Trust has built a good photo point recording template that has all the essential data  fields  - have a look on their website. 

Good luck and get in touch if you want to discuss. 

Cheers Tim 

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Sam Rye Sep 14, 2015

This is great, thank you Tim!

I'll have a look at the projects you mentioned and report back!

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Sam Rye Sep 16, 2015

Hey Tim,

The QEII Trust Photopoint guide is really useful - here's the link in case any one is interested: http://www.openspace.org.nz/Site/Managing_you...ts/default.aspx

It looks like a great framework which this Photopoint tool could be based around, so thanks for the alert on that one!

I know the founder of Thundermaps, and the development team is actually an Enspiral venture (just like Volunteer Impact!) so I shall keep in touch with them, but I think what they're doing could be useful for a range of other geo-location based alerts which relate to conservation. I'm not sure if there's a direct overlap at this stage, other than finding previous photopoints?

I've been looking at other Augmented Reality projects to see if there's something visually descriptive I can share to help people wrap their head around it. I couldn't find anything particularly useful unfortunately. However if you look closely at the mock up, you will see within the mobile phone in the image, there's a second image overlayed on it, which would be the previous year's photo. This would allow people to find a physical marker on the project site (such as a wooden/metal post with fluro paint for easy ID) and then use their smartphone to line up key identifying markers of the landscape - such as tall trees, roads, buildings etc. This will then mean we can generate a series of images which are almost perfectly lined up, so that when playing them back to back we get a short timelapse of the project site growing and changing. I hope that makes sense?

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Sam Rye Sep 20, 2015

I had a helpful tweet from Monica Peters (citizen science + Conservation PhD and more!) about another app which could do something similar, but doesn't do it well. Here's the link http://projectrephoto.com/

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jamie emery Sep 20, 2015

What a great idea we could do with this in the far north!! We have awsum volunteers helping out and monitoring our local reserves this would be a great tool to capture their progress.


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Sam Rye Sep 20, 2015

Thanks Jamie! I'll definitely be in touch to get some contacts to follow up with!

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Renea Sep 21, 2015

Good one Sam! Sounds like a great tool to help inspire and empower people to engage with these projects. :)

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Sam Rye Sep 21, 2015

Kia ora Renea! Thanks for the supportive words! Empower is definitely the word I feel keeps coming back here...

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Tim Arnold Sep 22, 2015

Hi Sam Rye,
a good idea to collect hard evidence of environmental changes. How do you register the quantity of changes? Did I get this right? You are aligning photos from various time periods? If you would have access to sets of photos, taken with variable cameras, zoom and orientation, e.g. tourist photos voluntary provided, you could use processes like bundle adjustment or structure from motion, like visualSFM [Wu 2011; Barsanti,Micoli & Guidi 2013] .
Here is a paper, [Agarwal et al. 2011], which used photos publicly available on photo sharing sites (Flickr.com) to create a 3D model of popular parts of Rome and other cities. The project used some computer power with sizes of photo sets of 57,875; 150,000 and 250,000.
Today there is a lot faster algorithms (programs), which do not require the massive computer power which was used in this paper, but can deliver comparable results with one home PC in 24 hours.
Also, if the view is on the scenery / object is not blocked, much smaller sets are required. Compare the image of my project, on which you will find a 3D "point cloud" model of a pilot whale mould. This model was created using a set of just above 100 photos in 2.5 hours on a medium quality home computer; there is over 2.3 million 3D points.
Agarwal, S.; Furukawa, Y.; Snavely, N.; Simon, I.; Curless, B.; Seitz, S. M. and Szeliski, R. (2011). Building Rome in a Day, Commun. ACM 54 : 105-112.
Barsanti, S.; Micoli, L. and Guidi, G. (2013). Quick textured mesh generation for massive 3D digitization of museum artifacts,  1 : 197-200.
Wu, C. (2011). VisualSFM: A visual structure from motion system, URL: http://homes.cs.washington.edu/ccwu/vsfm 9.

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Tim Arnold Sep 22, 2015

Well, that wasn't really clear, sorry. Using mentioned process, you are able to create a 3D model out of photos, which would provide the possibility to quantity environmental changes by measuring how much area changed in what time. It also provides an opportunity to register these 2D photos to the real 3D world, it is possible to pin point parts of the image to a map.

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Sam Rye Sep 24, 2015

Love this Tim, and a great way to take a relatively low-fidelity bit of data like a photo, and turn it into a more hi-fidelity research tool.

It makes me think about the Photosynth tool - https://photosynth.net/

Here was the TED Talk from the guy who is now at Google too - http://www.ted.com/talks/blaise_aguera_y_arca...nth?language=en

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Tim Arnold Sep 24, 2015

Thank you Sam.

Yes, a lot of fantastic things have been developed in computer science in the past two decades. There is great potential.A lot has been developed open source.

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Tim Arnold Sep 22, 2015

The link of visualSFM is old (date), try this one instead, I just used it http://ccwu.me/vsfm/

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Sam Rye Sep 30, 2015

Some changes that I'd like to make this idea as direct feedback online and offline:

- Go beyond traditional photopoint monitoring - a fixed point "change over time" image series, and build out to do 3D modelling based on a series of shots from a variety of angles. Very exciting idea - thanks Tim!

- Encourage Creative Commons licensing as a default to allow researchers around the world to benefit from the data and insights gained from these photopoints.  This may connect into a Citizen Science platform (or be the seed of one) which would enable people from around the country, as well as academic researchers, to browse, interpret and identify species pictured/modelled.

- Best Practice Toolkit - I'd love to support the creation, publishing and marketing of best practice toolkit for photopoint monitoring to add it to the kete of methods that community conservation projects have at their disposal. I'd be looking for partners on this.


2 more votes to get to originality - keen to hear from people if they'd like to see this considered for judging!

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Sam Rye Sep 30, 2015

Updates made to our descriptions settings with our refinements shaped by the awesome commenters online & offline. Thanks people!!

Users tagged:

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Lee Barry Sep 30, 2015

Status changed to Finalist
This idea has passed all the milestones and is eligible for final judging by WWF's expert panel. Feel free to keep the comments and feedback flowing!

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