WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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The Cacophony Project - Modern Information Technology to eliminate Predators from New Zealand

Moore’s Law tells us that it keeps getting cheaper and easier to crunch data. And every day, all around New Zealand, the dawn chorus tells us that our birdlife is one of our greatest treasures. But which way is the volume trending? And what can we pick out from the individual voices? What impact are our pest traps making?

The Cacophony Project will turn birdsong into data and use the best of breed IT technologies to dramatically improve our trapping ability. The new device we are creating is called  the Cacophonometer and it will be able to;

  • Lure predators with sound and light

  • Identify using camera and Artificial Intelligence

  • Eliminate the identified predators

  • Monitor the background bird song to measure the impact

We think this approach has the potential to increase trapping efficiency by up to 80,000 times, long term.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

As most of the readers here will be aware New Zealand has a huge problem in invasive predators (rats, stoats and possums Etc). This has lead to NZ having one of the highest rates of species loss and 70% of our unique species are still in decline or already endangered. We are using modern open source IT to create tools that will make elimination of all predators possible.


How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

To see a video summarising our goal see this TV3 article


The Cacophony Project is a non-profit project that uses best of breed modern open source Information Technologies to allow rapid development of tools for conservation. Some of our initial achivements include:

- an app to turn any old cell phone into an environmental monitoring tool so objectively measure trends in wildlife

- a dual heat and IR camera that uploads videos to the cloud that is more able to monitor fast moving small predators

- using Artificial Intellegence to auto classify videos into rats, stoats, possums etc

- some encouraging initial results from trying digital social lures initial on possums

- a method to objectively measure the effectiveness of existing monitoring tools and traps. Some traps seem to work as little as 1% of the time so lots of room for improvement

More details on this https://cacophony.org.nz/blog

What makes your idea new and unique?

Open source is an extremely powerful tools that has helped build things like the Internet and Wikipedia. Our analysis estimates that these tools could in theory make trapping 80,000 times more efficient


We think we can make NZ predator free before 2040


Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

The Cacophony Project has been set up trying to use best of breed systems meaning that there are many ways that business can be set up to use the technology that can then be scaled around the country (and the world)


We have also highlighted how scientists can use the tools we are developing to improve out understanding of the environment


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

The $ will be primarily used for hardware so that we have more devices in the hands of clever folks who can contribute software to further improve the tools

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2016 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Community Guidelines


Michele Frank Sep 29, 2016

Thanks for the great idea. It could be useful to connect with the interactive roost idea see if they are synergies between both ideas.


Grantryan Oct 5, 2016

Hi Michele - thanks for the feedback. I've just struggled to find the interactive roost idea listed here - is it titled something else? Thanks


Michele Frank Oct 5, 2016

Hi Grant full project title An interactive roost for your bird audio data - Using the flock to support your project. It was the first project listed. When scrolling through projects it takes a few seconds for the next projects to load. Another question the Cacophony project is addressing many issues. Can you clarify the innovation that you are seeking funding for. Thanks Michele


Grantryan Oct 6, 2016

Hi Michele
Thanks for that. Very happy to chat to the Roost folks. The best way to explain the difference is that We have build an IT platform that can be used for many conservation tasks eg recording sound, video, trap data Etc. It is all open source so that when folks have a better idea for how to do some analysis etc they do not have to rebuild the IT infrastructure and can use all the data that has already been collected. It has all be designed so that the data collection and uploading is automated.

When looking at the sound recording data the issue is not only that it is not collected in a central place but that it is often not reordered over consistent period of time. We have shown how our conservation IT system can be used to allow an old cell phone to be used to collect data and automatically upload it to the cloud. https://cacophony.org.nz/cacophonometer-–-robust-inexpensive-ecology-monitoring-tool. This is then open for anyone to analyse and build on others work. This means that potentially thousands of groups can easily start collecting data to have an objective measure of how they are progressing.

The main project we will be able to accelerate with additional $ is the automated camera monitoring, luring and trapping.https://cacophony.org.nz/advanced-predator-monitoring-tool


View all replies (3)

The Forest Bridge Trust Oct 6, 2016

Just love inventors like you, you push the boundaries for us! I see that trait amongst some of the children we meet in our programme - we really encourage them to try new lures etc and some come up with some amazing ideas. If your concept takes off we could get the children using it to record the birdlife in their backyards - then maybe as a monitoring tool after they have done some trapping? Keep up the creative thinking Grant!


Grantryan Oct 8, 2016

Thanks for your kind words. You hit the nail on the head with your suggestion that our tools then enable anyone to rapidly test different solutions and have a way to confirm exactly how they perform. Ultimately when we have Artificial Intellegence working on the videos and different sound lures then all traps will be able to be improved as soon as anyone works out a better way to lure identify or eliminate predators


Olivia Rothwell Oct 11, 2016

Great project! Looks like you are using wifi and cell to upload image data to the cloud. Are you finding that this is draining power? I helped to develop a satellite enabled camera trap for remote monitoring and anti-poaching purposes. Would be very happy to discuss the project with you once you are ready to look into satellite data upload. https://www.zsl.org/conservation-initiatives/.../instant-detect


Grantryan Oct 11, 2016

Hi Olivia - yes keen to chat. We are not too worries about power and data at this stage as we know all of these things are getting better and easier over time. We have a deal with Spark to give us free data and can use mesh network without cell coverage. Our goal is to create the ultimate device then make it cheaper, lower power and more robust.


Christopher Wingate Oct 14, 2016

Dear fellow entrant.
I am hoping to get your support to vote for Dr Maggie Evans who only needs another 12 votes and needs them today. Her work is “critically important science” to help save critically endangered birds such as the Kakapo. Please take a look and lets all give her our support. We are all in this together. Cheers- https://wwf-nz.crowdicity.com/post/285779