HWC Tech Challenge Update: Meet the Judges

Our panel of international experts has been hard at work reviewing the 47 proposals we recieved for innovative technological tools to address human wildlife conflict. The panelists have systematically been assessing the solutions you came up with for Elephant, Tiger and Polar Bear conflicts and are now in the midst of discussions about how the various proposed tools could be implemented on the ground.

On Wednesday 1st November we will announce the winners of the HWC Tech Challenge. These winners will be awarded with 30,000 EUR each to further develop their tools in the field. The proposed solution for human-elephant conflict will be tested in India, while the tool for human-predator conflict will be tested in either a polar bear or tiger conflict site.

Date published: 2017/10/20

Winners to be announced on the 1st November, 2017

First of all, we’d like to thank you all again for your interest and participation in the Human Wildlife Conflict Tech Challenge!

We were (and still are) overwhelmed by all the great ideas submitted by an enthusiastic group of technologists with a heart for nature. Our dedicated group of panellists has been hard at work reviewing all 47 proposals and is now in the midst of discussions about how the various proposed tools could be implemented on the ground.

Due to the high quality and quantity of applications, this process has taken a little longer than expected. So we have made the decision that we will take some extra time to be certain that we've chosen the best possible proposals.

We will announce the winners of the challenge on 1st November 2017.

Initial Feedback from our Judges

Although we are not ready to announce the winners, we can share some initial feedback from the experts who will be making the difficult decisions about which proposal to take forward into field deployment. 

Amalia R Maling, a community-based conservation specialist who is part of our TIger Case Judging panel, shared her inital thoughts about the applications: 

“I was pleasantly surprised that many of the applications were from people who are not in the field of conservation; proves that we have to expand our reach beyond our usual partners to discover new technologies tools.Conservation should be everybody’s business and we should tap the diverse talents out there.”

Conservation should be everybody’s business and we should tap the diverse talents out there.
Amalia Maling

Geoff York, Senior Director of Conservation at Polar Bears International, Chair of the Polar Bear Range States Conflict Working Group, was invigorated by the judging process: 

“Wildlife conservation desperately needs an infusion of innovative ideas, especially around our use, or lack thereof, of the latest technologies.”

“I was impressed by both the creativity and quality of the proposals and see a lot of opportunity to combine ideas, and engage new people in conservation efforts.”

Samuel Thomas, Coordinator WWF Western Ghats Nilgiris Landscape Programme, brings a grounded perspective to the Elephant panel:

“Human-elephant conflict is complex and very challenging as elephants learn quickly and defy anything that is thrown at them. Traditional watch and ward practices have declined, so farmers and conservation managers today are looking for easier ways to deal with crop raiding animals. This is where technology can help – and my interest in the challenge was to see what state of the art technologies or innovations on existing technology can help people and animals in conflict zones.”

“A few of the proposals were interesting and the quality of most proposals was high, but most are in the realm of strategy and design – the real challenges are in the field and only a few ideas had been hard tested. I also think there is general tendency among proponents to understate the availability and use of existing, off-the-shelf technologies. Also, while the scope for technological applications is endless, we need to temper it with a sound understanding of animal behaviour, landscape conditions, costs and sustainability. Sadly, many proposals do not have this nuanced understanding.”

Mike Brown, a judge in our overarching panel, shared his initial impressions of the applications:

'In my role at Bowery Capital, I evaluate thousands of technology businesses in the for-profit arena and am participating as a panelist to carry that passion into the non-profit world... After early review, the proposals were definitely in great form with many of the applicants understanding the challenge at hand. Many embraced the process and gave reviewers like me some great information and technical details to help assess. The creativity was evident and I felt that the group really strived to create uniqueness to their businesses. I was excited to see that many of the applicants are seeing how important the issue is.'

Wildlife conservation desperately needs an infusion of innovative ideas, especially around our use, or lack thereof, of the latest technologies. I was impressed by both the creativity and quality of the proposals and see a lot of opportunity to combine ideas, and engage new people in conservation efforts.
Geoff York

Bob Hansen, a specialist on human-polar bear conflict mitigation in Canada, shared his motivations for joining the Polar Bear Judging panel:

“I see participating in this competition as a way to contribute to the important efforts to solve human wildlife conflicts. I also appreciate this learning opportunity. The HWC Technology Challenge of WWF and WILDLABS casts a worldwide net for cutting edge ideas that can be practically applied to prevent conflict with polar bears and to enhance human safety.”

“I’ve learned a great deal in reviewing the proposals. It is clear that there is great potential in selecting innovations developed elsewhere and testing them for efficacy in reducing human-polar bear conflicts. It is encouraging to see the way in which so many experts are harnessing their knowledge and expertise in terms of animal behaviour, biology, culture, environment, technology and other skills to further co-existence with wildlife.”

Finally, Ramesh Krishnamurthy, tiger biologist, reintroduction specialist, expert in human-tiger conflict, and member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, had this to say:

”I participated as a panelist as I feel that technological integration is very much needed in the current and future contexts to ensure tiger conservation in the range countries.”

“My first impression of the applications in general is that there are many people out there who are willing to break conventional options to work for conservation and that many options are emerging. The overall quality was mixed and ambitious. I was certainly encouraged to see the options proposed and encourage all the project proponents to collaborate with tiger biologists to make the solution effective and R&D more productive.”

 

Introducing our Judging Panel

The HWC Tech Challenge put forward three complex cases that called for applicants to show their ingenuity, innovation and an understanding of the potential limitations of local field conditions. To assess the applications across these cases, we have brought together experts to form four judging panels: 

Elephant Case Judging Panel

  • Mohan Raj, Consultant to WWF India
  • Anupam Sarmah, Head of NBL & KKL landscapes
  • Christy Williams, Country director WWF Myanmar
  • Boominathan Durairaj, HWC expert, WWF India
  • Samuel Thomas, HWC expert, WWF India

Carnivore Case: Tiger Judging Panel

  • Ramesh Krishnamurthy, Scientist at Wildlife institute of India
  • Robert Steinmetz, Scientist WWF Thailand
  • Sunarto Sunarto, Scientist WWF Indonesia
  • Akbar A. Digdo, YAPEKA (partner WWF ID)
  • Amy Maling, Communities expert, WWF Myanmar
  • Anurag Danda, Programme manager WWF India

Carnivore Case: Polar Bear Judging Panel

  • Geoff York,  Polar Bears International
  • Doug Clark, Centennial Chair in Human Dimensions of Environment & Sustainability, School of Environment & Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan
  • Bob Hansen, PB conflict reduction expert, previously Govt. Canada

Overall Judging Panel

  • Eric Becker, Engineer WWF US
  • Mike Brown, Founder & General Partner at Bowery Capital

Best of luck to all our applicants, and we look forward to announcing our winners very soon!

Best regards, 

The HWC Tech Challenge Team

Femke Hilderink – WWF

Stephanie O’Donnell – WILDLABS

Ellen de Wolf – WWF

Gert Polet – WWF

Join the discussion in our HWC Tech Challenge community group to connect with other members interested in tackling HWC. 

Continue the discussion… Human Wildlife Conflict Tech Challenge