The pocket-sized smartphone is set to give a fillip to conservation activities in the Western Ghats.
The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) is joining hands with the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), U.S., for a project on using smartphones in a big way for crowdsourcing, a participatory exercise to generate data, for ecological research and conservation of the Western Ghats region.
The project has been submitted to NASA for funding under the Applied Science Programme, Udaysankar. S. Nair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, UAH, said.
The increasing availability of mobile devices equipped with global positioning system and improved camera features had opened up the possibility of crowdsourcing, he said. “It is something everybody can do. Armed with mobile phones, volunteers, including schoolchildren, would collect data that can be used along with satellite images to assess the impact of land use and land cover changes in the Western Ghats”.
Talking to The Hindu on a visit to his hometown, Dr. Nair said the data collected through crowdsourcing would supplement satellite imagery for research.
“For example, if you want to use satellite data and generate information on land use change, you need ground information. The satellite image will not tell you what each point is. But if you know a few points, like one location is a banana plantation or deforested patch, then you can train the algorithm or geographical information programme to recognise the land use pattern and analyse it”, he said.
“You just use the smartphone to take pictures; the phone itself calculates the geographical coordinates. If you develop a system to collect all the data, it will be uploaded to a database which can be used by state agencies for analysis”.
KSBB Chairman Oommen V. Oommen said the pilot project on crowd sourcing would be implemented in one district. Students would be mobilised through Biodiversity Clubs in colleges.
Dr. Nair said crowd sourcing could also provide inputs to study the impact of climate change on endangered species. Another application of the data on land use would be in understanding urban growth, the extent of green cover and the impact of reforestation programmes.