Ethics of Conservation Tech / Feed

Over the last few years the conservation movement has been enthusiastically deploying new technologies that make it possible to observe and protect the natural world in ways once unimaginable. But are there any potential risks we need to consider as we deploy the new, exciting technologies?


Ethics in conservation

Hi everyone,My post is not about tech really, but about ethics in general.I am Phyllis Masudi, a PhD candidate at Wageningen University and Research. I am from Kenya. I am...

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Hi Sherril, 
I can't believe this was posted almost a month ago. And more surprising that there are no comments about it yet. 

That experience you had is one of the kind, because most people in conservation don't get to deal with ethics and moral issues in the front line that often. It's just because most people do desk work. Including managing directors of projects deployed in remote places. I can relate your experience to any field, I would say it's almost a human behavior classics. I understand it can be frustrating and also a lonely journey. Myself I had experience a lot of that in the last years. To a point that I was almost quitting doing my best for conservation, I was burnt out for seeing that the reality was a very different picture from the marketing about it. But I feel fortunate that I have been observing these realities in the sector first-hand for long time now. And because I did it all independently and self funded I can speak my mind about it. Which there are not many people with that freedom I found out. 

You talk about illegal practices, in countries where corruption seems more "brutal", for governments and organizations the fact that something is illegal can be pretty relative concept. And methods follow short when that is the case. Many times I observed apparent combat of poaching activities, but after years of observation and doing my own research it was clear that the local governments were pretty aware of illegal activities and just not being honest enough to address them. Mainly because the donors are far away, way removed from the realities in the front line, so the remoteness of some places allows for a very flexible understanding of ethics in some cases. 

Your experience is very valuable, I'm glad to hear that you got the permits at the end. And good luck with your research, remember to write, record and share your experiences. There is a lot of people in the same situation. Stay independent, stay free, share your knowledge. 

Best, Luciano

Hi Luciano,

Thank you for joining in in the discussion!

I really love your perspectives on this. It is exciting to learn that I am not all alone in this. You know, at one point you think that some of these things are because you are not effectively doing your work, but then it is just how the system works. I am glad I figured it out. My main concern was how do I really get my data, remain safe from what seems to be an intricate, closely guarded practice and also protect my study participants and their communities from unintentional exposure to the securities. Through the process, I have gained lots of experience in navigating ethics in conservation, especially when the topic in question is illegal. 

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How are Outdoor Fire Detection Systems Adapted for Small Forest Areas, Considering the Predominance of Indoor Fire Detectors?

How are fire detection mechanisms tailored for outdoor environments, particularly in small forest areas, given that most fire and smoke detectors are designed for indoor use?

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Fire detection is a sort of broad idea.  Usually people detect the products of fire, and most often this is smoke.

Many home fire detectors in the US use a radioactive source and measure the absorption of the radiation by the air.  More smoke means more absorption.

For outdoor fire detection, PM2.5 can be a very good smoke proxy, and outdoor PM2.5 sensing is pretty accessible.

This one is very popular in my area. 


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Call for Interview Subjects: Conservation Bioacoustics Methods

As a part of my ongoing doctoral research in Geography at Royal Holloway University of London, I’m looking for a new round of interview subjects who are willing to share their...

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Happy to help Samuel, will send a message

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Looking for advice around building a survey to develop guidance & prioritize tech development to meet ranger/First Nations' needs in Australia. 

I'm working within WWF-Australia on a new project looking to empower First Nations-led monitoring on Country through technology and innovation. As part of this, I've been...

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Hi Emma, In your new project, if you have interest in a direct to satellite platform perspective, you can contact me on [email protected] Would be interested to see your outcomes and happy to have a chat if we can assist

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Digital Disruption for Conservation Toolkit

Made available by the Digital Disruption and the Future of Conservation project team at Unearthodox, the toolkit provides conservation practitioners with a comprehensive introduction to Web 3.0 and AI concepts and their potential use for nature conservation.


Sustained Effort: Carbon Footprints and Capacity

Sol Milne
In this article, Sol Milne discusses his experiences with sustainability, both in terms of environmental impact and project longevity, and considers how uncoupling conservation work from colonial ideas can help us build...

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Gender Equality in Conservation

Meet the women and men supporting gender equality in conservation #tech. Here is a panel discussion the Women in Conservation Tech (WiCT) led in November 2022, during the EarthRanger User Conference (ERUC). Opening up...

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Help - Innovative ways to track elephant movement

Hi, I am working on a study to track wild elephant movement within an overlayed matrix of crop fields. We seek to understand how various landscape variables impact crop-raiding...

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Why would you want to avoid alerting the rangers ?

You don't need high tech for this; elephants leave very obvious tracks and sign. 

Hi Tyler,

Would like to introduce you to Ceres Tags products

  • Ceres Tags products come in boxes of 5, 10 and 24. 
  • There are some software partners such as Earthranger, Mapipedia and possibly CiboLabs that would be able to assist you with your mapping vegetation requirements
  • Ceres Tag does not require any towers, base stations and infrastructure. This allows you to see any movements from the heard outside of their normal herd (boundary alerts), and you will not be disturbing any of the flora and fauna with infrastructure set up. 
  • For the timing you are looking at, Ceres Wild pings directly to satellite 24 times a day. For Ceres Trace and Ceres Ranch there are 4 within 24 hours. Taking into consideration, when you set up alert areas, you will get them directly to your phone/laptop via your software of choice
  • Ceres Ranch is a reusable tag that has just been launched. Use it on this project, remove the tag and then use the tag on your next project
  • The software you choose will assist with the history of your animal movements. Ceres Tag is integrated with 11 software partners and in-development with 18 software partners
  • Understanding it is a short-term project, you would be able to use Ceres Tags products without the additional expense of setting up and removing infrastructure- towers, gateways
  • With Ceres Tag, you are purchasing the box of tags and picking a suitable software to deliver the information you require. On average, a box of 10 Ceres Trace Tags, is the same as 1 LoRaWAN tower. 


I just came across this interesting paper in which seismic monotoring of animals like elephants was mentioned. 

This is the study refered to:




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Ceres Tag sends just in time alerts and GPS location to have the power to track and trace.

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Data privacy for at-risk species

Elizabeth Bondi and I were concerned by the assumption that geo-obfuscating the GPS location of data (ie random jitter within some range) would be sufficient to preserve location...

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If you haven't read them, these 2 papers offer propose decision-making frameworks for sensitive animal occurrence data:

Tulloch AIT, Auerbach N, Avery-Gomm S, Bayraktarov E, Butt N, Dickman CR, Ehmke G, Fisher DO, Grantham H, Holden MH, et al. 2018. A decision tree for assessing the risks and benefits of publishing biodiversity data. Nature Ecol. Evol. 2: 1209-1217.

Lennox RJ, Harcourt R, Bennett JR, Davies A, Ford AT, Frey RM, Hayward MW, Hussey NE, Iverson SJ, Kays R. 2020. A novel framework to protect animal data in a world of ecosurveillance. BioScience 70(6): 468–476.

The Research Data Alliance has 2 relevant interest groups:

Sensitive Data IG: This is just getting started.

Data Policy Standardization and Implementation IG: For those publishing results, this group is working on advising more consistent data-access policies. In the paper below resulting from this group's work, they give some general suggestions for defining exceptions to open data policies that include sensitive species data:

Hrynaszkiewicz I, Simons N, Hussain A, Grant R, Goudie S. 2020. Developing a research data policy framework for all journals and publishers. Data Science Journal 19(1): 5.

If others know of relevant resources please share!

Our team was just talking about this as well.  We work in bioacoustics, so not as complex as the camera trap strategies described in the publication. 

Strategy we landed on was to automatically round geo coordinates to map an approx location for species presence. 

We welcome thoughts/opinions/ideas on this important topic for our sensitive species in Nepal, Bolivia, and US!

Fwiw, GBIF published guidance on this topic late last year:

Chapman AD (2020) Current Best Practices for Generalizing Sensitive Species Occurrence Data. Copenhagen: GBIF Secretariat.

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