WILDLABS Community Call Recording: Rainforest X-PRIZE

Our second WILDLABS Community Call took place on April 1st to continue the discussion started by Ben Tregenna in our Data Science group, in which he suggested the idea of submitting a collaborative entry to the X-Prize for Rainforests. In this call, we brainstormed ideas and explored forming a team(s) for the prize. We were also joined by representatives from the Rainforest X-PRIZE team, who answered questions about the prize. 

If you weren't able to join the call live, watch our Zoom recording and submit a Google Form to join the growing WILDLABS X-Prize team. Full notes from the call and all relevant links can be found here.

Date published: 2020/03/30

Date and Time

Wednesday, April 1st 2020, 3-4PM BST / 10-11AM EDT

Why are we holding community calls?

These monthly calls are an opportunity to have focused conversations about topics that have been discussed within the WILDLABS group forums which could use extra attention. These monthly calls are separate from the Virtual Meetup Series, which feature a panel of expert speakers discussing specific topics like acoustic monitoring or machine learning. Rather than featuring formal talks, our community calls will be a more relaxed, open brainstorming format in which we will welcome participants to play active roles in directing the discussion. 

We will aim to select a topic each month that stirs up further conversation, sparks new ideas, and encourages collaboration. In addition to the central topic of each call, we will also give community members the floor to share updates and announcements, ask each other questions, offer services, propose ideas, and give feedback on how WILDLABS can better serve the tech conservation community. Participants are welcome to prepare questions and updates to share during this time.

Call Agenda and Summary


The Rainforest XPRIZE is a $10m prize "to survey the most biodiversity in at least three stories of a rainforest (emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor) in 8 hours and use that data to produce the greatest number of new insights after 48 hours that will reveal the true potential of the standing forest." Our call allowed potential prize team members to meet and discuss ideas for collaborative projects that we could enter into the challenge.

  • Welcome and introductions (5 min)

  • Intro to Rainforest XPRIZE (5 mins) 
  • Collaborative Community Brainstorm (40 min)
  • Open Discussion Time (member announcements/calls and offers for help/discussing community needs) (10 min)

We were lucky to be joined by three guests from the Rainforest X-Prize panel, who provided us with updates on the new entry guidelines and timeline, which will be released soon and emailed to all challenge registrants. The panel is also fine-tuning the judging criteria at the moment, and will be releasing those new guidelines as well. Current information about the Prize can be found on their website. The panel answered common questions about how funding for projects will work throughout the three rounds of competition, discussed the encouraged involvement of sponsors and partners for teams, and gave details on the evolving criteria for how judges will determine which projects incorporate the most innovative techniques and result in the most data, as well as how any potential environmental impacts will be weighed against collection of data. After the formal call wrapped up, David from X-Prize also shared that, because these criteria are still evolving, they are open to feedback regarding guidelines about the collection of data needing to be fully autonomous, and surrounding the timeline for announcing the location where the challenge will take place.

Our community call participants then talked about the strategies we might consider for dividing into teams. We shared a Google Form to begin organizing participants into teams based on skill sets and interests. Shah Selbe gave us some insight from his time as an X-Prize judge, and we discussed how although the volume of biodiversity monitored within the competition window will be the main factor in choosing a winner, other factors like environmental data from water, soil, etc. may also come into play to break a tie or elevate a team. One idea that was discussed throughout the call was the possibility of using AI to identify insects, which will make up a huge percentage of the biodiversity in any rainforest ecosystem. AI and machine learning seem like they will certainly play a big role in this challenge, and we considered strategies for preparing an AI model prior to the competition's start date. One lively discussion focused on the merits of trying to train the model beforehand using as many relevant data sets as possible, versus trying to train it quickly on-site with location-specific data once the challenge location is released.

For a record of other key talking points discussed, visit our Google Doc of notes from this call, where you can add questions and feedback of your own in the FAQ section, and watch the recording linked below.

Call Resources


Watch the Community Call recording here.

Next Steps

We will host a follow-up call once the X-Prize panel has released their updated guidelines for entries. Call registration details will be posted here on WILDLABS once the follow-up is scheduled.

 In the meantime, we are beginning to form our teams! If you're interested in joining one of our project teams and participating in a collaborative entry, take a minute to submit this Google Form with details about your skill set and what you'd like to contribute to our project. This will help us coordinate our efforts and identify which teams need members with certain areas of expertise. 

All call notes and resources are available on Google Docs. If you have any questions that we can address in our follow-up call, you can add questions, comments, and feedback to this document in the FAQ section at the bottom. If you have trouble accessing any of this call content, email us at [email protected].

You can also join the Rainforest X-Prize conversation in our Data Science group forum.

Interested in forming a team for the X-Prize for Rainforests? Join the ongoing discussion in our community. 

Continue the discussion… X-Prize for Rainforests