discussion / Community Base  / 4 January 2020

A community response to help support the Australian bushfire crisis

Hi all,

The bushfire crisis in Australia is beyond words. I've been talking to a few Australian friends and WL community members @Rob+Appleby @JessieOliver etc trying to answer "what can we do as a tech community to help directly?". What is it - 500 million estimated dead? 8000 Koalas, 30% of the population known to have perished in NSW?

They too know we're looking at the reality of climate change unfolding at scale in Australia. All its wildlife, all its people, are now on the frontline now and for years to come. We still aren't even reducing emissions globally(!). What a disaster. The Amazonian fires, Californian fires, African fires - all devastating and not even close in comparison to what is going on in Oz and equally as disturbing. Watching it all unfold I keep looking for something we could do to help in the short term, as a community.

At first I was thinking early warning fire / heat / smoke sensors for remote fire detection - we have all the comms and hardware to do it, but the shear scale of it and limited resources on the ground to react seemed to suggest the impact wouldn't do much even if we started to deliver free hardware as a community. Maybe it would help in the long term post recovery next year, and the next, but then a post came up a few agos on the Sydney Herald describing the "starvation event" now facing the survivers that is just as heart wrenching.

From a technology perspective however, I think we could help. Equipment to quickly detect distressed wildlife in the aftermath / burnt land is certainly what we could help with. UAVs with thermal cameras could spot and find countless dehydrated or starving mammals for a start in the short term. I have no idea which org / people locally would be best to receive it, especially if we're looking at drone pilots, but we could explore the idea. I could probably build two thermal UAVs from spares in my room alone and I know plenty of pilots. We could even try and fund / donate to help build an equipment bank in a way we know how.

Maybe a special "unprecedented" Virtual Meetup to brainstorm a response from us a community?

Infact, we were going to do one for the rainforest Xprize that was to discuss rapid scanning / surveillance of rainforest habitat, so we're already in a similar realm.


**UPDATE 3** 
Thanks to everyone who has signed up using the form. There are a couple of obvious workstream areas emerging - we'll organise them using the slack channel. Over the last few days we've also been liaising with teams on the ground in NSW and Victoria to make sure we're connecting in with exisiting efforts and focusing our work on prioirities  they're identifying on the ground.  


STEP 1: Please, continue to use the form to tell us how you want to be involved, the information is really helpful for cooridination purposes and communicating what you can help with to the teams on the ground. It also will us to direct you into the workstreams that match your interests. 



STEP 2: Join the slack workspace here. It's super basic at the moment, but it'll get us going. It looks like the best approach is to organise into a couple of different teams, each with a lead that reports into a coordinating group. 

Hey Al, 

Thanks for starting this. I'm home in Sydney and just watching the devastation of areas I grew up in & love with horror. I've been wondering the same thing - if there is anyway our community can help. More than happy to facilitate at community call to brainstorm. The neat alignment with rainforest Xprize idea is a good shout (might think about the earthshot prize too?). 


I'll join a call along with Sean Bonner from Safecast. We are based in Tokyo. 

Join our call on Monday 6pm ET / 10am AEDT

ADD to your calendar + check timezones HERE

Darlene Cavalier (@scicheer) is opening the call for anyone who can join us. 



Meeting ID: 868 810 9958

Call in: +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

Find your local number: https://us04web.zoom.us/u/fet8vjyPfL


For record: 

Conservation technology friends. I've put a thread together on @WILDLABSNET regarding the complete and utter disaster that humanity has created, the Australian bushfire crisis, to see if there is something we can do tech-wise to assist https://t.co/jmiXLI6ULH pic.twitter.com/cXPr6odOov

— Alasdair Davies (@Al2kA) January 4, 2020

Immediate need is to ID danger zones, find resources & safe places, coordinate animal searches/rehab. I wonder if platforms like @openstreetmap could help? I don't know those folks. @mhaklay @scicheer @CitSciOZ, @EuCitSci @CitSciAssoc, & other #citsci folks ideas or contacts?

— Jessie Oliver (@JessieLOliver) January 5, 2020

We'd be keen to help from @gaiaresources. Most of the team is based in Perth (GMT+8) for timing. We know spatial data sources for stuff like fire zones etc in Oz, got some mobile tools that could be rolled out quickly, etc.

— Piers Higgs (@piers_higgs) January 5, 2020

great idea folks, this long road to recovery is going to take all our ingenuity & skills .... citizen science will be invaluable in charting recovery and species sightings in burnt areas- and perhaps help locals see some small hope too

— emma r (@emerr7) January 5, 2020

I absolutely agree! Crowdsourcing has also been absolutely vital in other parts of the world where access to information has been limited during natural disasters and if we can coordinate it has potential to really help here too! That's why I have tagged all global #citsci teams.

— Jessie Oliver (@JessieLOliver) January 5, 2020

Hi everyone, the survey/recovery efforts in the fire zones are going to require funding and equipment to rapidly assess the situation so I am keen to see a fund or equipment donation process get off the ground. I have zero experience of this sort of thing however, so welcome help

— Rob Appleby (@wildspyrob) January 5, 2020

I agree it's a good idea. To my mind, the first is to decide what is needed, what we have access to, and prioritise, which I see as a key goal of the Zoom. Then once we know what we need to do, the real work begins, like getting people, support, and gear together

— Jessie Oliver (@JessieLOliver) January 5, 2020


Thanks Steph. Yeah, it's a question of what can we actually do immediately (if anything tech-wise i.e better to donate to @WIRES_NSW etc to save lives now). An upcoming census and population assessment, that will be inevitable. We could help equipment wise perhaps (thermal UAVs)

— Alasdair Davies (@Al2kA) January 5, 2020

I think Alastair you have identified a key need- to ensure we can quantify the impact on all our representative habitats & communities as soon as we can once it’s safe to do so- the long term impact on more endangered species & communities may be grave & priorities may change

— Rob Harcourt (@RobHarcourt) January 5, 2020

Inspiring and heartwarming to see the mobilising response from the WILDLABS community. Water providers and feeders could help in many burnt areas where starvation events are the next catastrophe. As Jessie mentioned, need to coordinate various efforts. Thanks so much everyone

— Rob Appleby (@wildspyrob) January 5, 2020


@JessieLOliver @WILDLABSNET @Scifabric @openstreetmap —can we schedule a brainstorming call on Monday? https://t.co/4nRIy1mV9s

— Darlene Cavalier (@scicheer) January 5, 2020

Yes please Darlene! That would be amazing! There as to be something we can to to help. The situation it dire over here for so many!
It's Sunday here for me in AEST, but any time of day or night, please just tell me when! It would be good to also include @Al2kA who is in London.

— Jessie Oliver (@JessieLOliver) January 5, 2020

Lets coordinate with others in the #tech4wildlife community who are keen to throw in their expertise as well. Suggest we pick a time and make it open for whoever wants to join. (I’m also AEST at the moment)

— Stephanie O'Donnell (@Steph_ODonnell) January 5, 2020

I suggest 6pm ET. It's reasonable for all timezones I'm aware of (11pm UK, 8am Tokyo, 6pm East US, 7am W Aus, 10am E Aus). Could also do 5pm ET at a stretch - but would make it 6am for @piers_higgs in Perth.

cc- @Al2kA @tara @seanbonner @RobHarcourt @JessieLOliver @WILDLABSNET

— Stephanie O'Donnell (@Steph_ODonnell) January 5, 2020


Can’t donate but have technical expertise? Help the animals in the #AustraliaFires by getting involved with @WILDLABSNET https://t.co/WDYLmD3LvT

— Natbat (@Natbat) January 5, 2020

Amazing and inspiring to see our community mobilising. I think water containers/feeders are a fantastic idea to help ward off starvation events that will follow the fires, and as Jessie mentioned, we need to coordinate efforts. Sadly, it may be too late for some species: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/04/ecologists-warn-silent-death-australia-bushfires-endangered-species-extinction, but as the article mentions, we won't know the full extent until after the end of summer, or the fire season, which may indeed go longer than usual. Looking forward to brainstorming on Tuesday (my time) with everyone. And thank you to everyone.