Technology Empowered Conservation Lecture Series

New technological forces look set to transform biodiversity science. This series will showcase and discuss cutting-edge applications happening in Oxford and beyond. It is guaranteed to inspire and challenge. 

Date published: 2018/01/18

Scientists and practitioners are engaging with new technologies in innovative and novel ways that look set to transform nature-related science and environmental management. The combination of low cost sensing technologies, widening access to data, artificial intelligence and software platforms is opening new opportunities and horizons for biodiversity and conservation science. This series will showcase a representative range of cutting edge science happening in Oxford and beyond. It aims to generate insight and discussion on the vision, components and transformative potential of new technological forces and discuss the implications of this for the future of pure, applied and interdisciplinary biodiversity science. It is guaranteed to inspire and challenge!

Conservation tech seminar series poster

Lecture Schedule

Videos of lectures will be published each week and linked below. More information, including reading lists and other resources, are available on the TEC website

Week 1: 4.15pm, Thursday 18th January 2018

New Horizons, Dr Paul Jepson

This short introductory presentation will introduce the forces that are driving this change and present a group of frameworks to think about and make sense of what is going on. It will introduce the new scientific practices that are emerging and pose questions on the implications and significance of technology for our field.

Nekton: the new voyages of discovery, Professor Alex Rogers

A common refrain is that we know more about the surface of mars than we do about the oceans of our planet. Oxford's deep ocean research institute has assembled an awesome array of technologies to change all this. They look set to generate the biggest 'new knowing' of life on Earth since the 18th century voyages of discovery revealed the natural wonders beyond Europe. This seminar will introduce the vision, but focus on the nuts and bolts of the scientific techniques that underpin the enterprise.

Week 2: 4.15pm, Thursday 25th January 2018

The Plastic Tide, Peter Kohler & Dr Dirk Gorissen

We all know that plastic contamination in our seas is a problem but turning this into meaningful policy action is a challenge. In this seminar we hear from a multidisciplinary team who are developing and applying an approach to auto-detect, monitor and measure the levels of plastics washing up on our beaches. The technique involves an assembly of volunteer piloted drone-mounted video sensors and learning algorithms trained by citizen classifiers via the Zooniverse platform. The vision is to map where plastics and litter accumulate, to provide a new data source for research, policy and activism.

Week 3: 4.15pm, Thursday 1 February 2018

Co-creating open-source conservation technology, Professor Alex Rogers & Dr Andrew Markham

The emergence of low-cost, low-volume manufacturing processes such as 3D printing, laser cutting and online PCB assembly services, combined with intelligent algorithms and artificial intelligence, mean that it has never been easier to create custom hardware sensors to address particular conservation and environmental monitoring challenges. However, many endeavours in this space fail to scale beyond small trial deployments and thus fail to achieve significant impact. Often this is because the wrong technology was chosen, the wrong problem was solved, or because scale and support beyond the lifetime of the individual project was not considered at the outset. This seminar will explore approaches to co-creating conservation technology, whereby conservation experts and technologists work together to design and build low-cost sustainable open-source solutions to real world conservation challenges.

Week 4: 4.15pm, Thursday 8 February 2018

Lasers in the Jungle, Professor Yadvinder Malhi & Dr Mathias Disney

The last decade has seen the widespread use of laser or lidar technology to map the structure and function of ecosystems, either from airborne or space-borne platforms or from detailed surface scanning. This seminar explores the principles of this new technology, the challenges faced in acquiring, processing and interpreting the vast amounts of data collected. It focuses in particular on recent research and insights from our work in tropical forest regions.

Week 5: 4.15pm, Thursday 15 February 2018

Conservation Culturomics: new decision support currencies, Professor Richard Ladle

The emergence of vast corpora of digital text opens the possibility of quantifying at scale the 'culturalness' of conservation entities: e.g. species and sites. This seminar will present work on the development of new decision-support 'currencies' metrics designed to advance the practice and science of conservation. It will explore the ontological and epistemology challenges associated with the new field of conservation culturomics, how they are being worked through, and the potential applications of the new metrics being generated.

Week 6: 4.15pm, Thursday 22 February 2018

Agent-based modelling for policy design, Dr Richard Bailey

Policy is described as an experiment in action: interventions are designed based on best-available knowledge and modified following studies of their effectiveness and lessons-learnt. ABM opens the prospect of modelling and exploring different policy scenarios. In addition, it creates a structured framework for identifying underlying casual assumptions and for collation of policy-relevant knowledge. This seminar will introduce the techniques, concepts and prospects through case studies of the Oxford Martin Programme on Sustainable Oceans and strategies to combat ivory poaching in African parks.

Week 7: 4.15pm, Thursday 1 March 2018

Wireless Wytham: intelligent tools and novel science, Professor Tim Coulson

The development of a suite of technologies, from intelligent traps to spatial monitoring devices, is enabling collection of high quality data from large numbers of small mammals whilst reducing animal suffering. This seminar will introduce these technologies and the motivation for deploying them in Wytham Woods. It will present the new horizons in field ecology that they afford, for instance the dynamics of the gut microbiota in free-living animals, along with the novel and exciting insights that they are generating and the new ecological and evolutionary questions that are arising from their use.

Week 8: 4.15pm, Thursday 8 March 2018

Genomics: back to the future technologies, Professor Greger Larson

Advances in DNA sequencing and informatics are enabling startling advances both in our ability to understand and reconstruct past, present and future ecologies. This seminar presents a future looking assessment of these advances, exploring the challenges and opportunities of this technology-empowered science along with emerging applications and associated ethical issues.


The School of Geography and the Environment is in the Oxford University Centre for the Environment / Dyson Perrins building, which can be found on the corner of Hinshelwood Road and South Park Road in the University Science Area.

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