Protecting the white-beaked dolphin
We helped MARINElife introduce innovation and technology for good
See it livesouthwestdolphinproject.org.uk
Our first port of call was to set up a discovery workshop with the MARINElife team to understand more about what they needed; to learn about their day-to-day activities and the processes they used to capture information. We found out that they focused their efforts on identifying various dolphin species off the coast of South West England, and spent a lot of time gathering, storing, analysing and organising images and data. This was an important exercise to help determine population numbers and prevalence of certain dolphin types but, incredibly time consuming and meant less time spent in the field and more time spent doing admin.
During this phase, it became apparent that as a small team, much time was spent on tracking down and photographing large volumes of dolphins to facilitate their research, reliant upon surveys to get images and data – a costly and hugely weather dependent practise. It was at this point it became clear they needed a simpler, less time consuming method of photographing dolphins and then matching their images against a clean database.
Our project goal became clear: we needed to help MARINElife simplify their process of managing data, whilst finding some extra resource to help them photograph dolphins in action.
We suggested a two-pronged approach that would achieve both of these goals:
- Build a clever tool to help MARINElife organise data and images, so they could spend more time on research than admin;
- Create a citizen science campaign site that would help gather data and raise awareness of their work and its importance.
We decided to partner with Digital Detox because of their emphasis on solving environmental challenges with problem-solving and technology, and upon realising combining an easy-access website with this technique of monitoring would be the best way to get the public involved.
One word sprang to mind on the challenge of reducing time spent on admin: automation. By building a tool that could quickly and easily store and match images and data, we could make it easier to extract and share relevant information as and when it was needed.
We spent some time working through the user experience of a back-end data management tool, catering to various user journeys and scenarios all linked to the process of receiving photos, matching them to a database and then categorising them according to their data profile. It was also key to be able to provide clean and validated data for research and conservation activities.
We built a public citizen science website aimed at getting the community involved in spotting and capturing images of the white-beaked dolphins of Lyme Bay. By making the site engaging and user friendly, it caters for all ages and online abilities - so everyone can get involved!
With this new tool, anyone can snap a picture of a dolphin on their phone and share it directly with the MARINElife team. From there, it is saved and matched against their database (using their new time-saving tool!) so they can identify the particulars of that individual dolphin against a wider population.
We were keen to help raise awareness of MARINElife and encourage the community to take an active role in photographing the dolphins, which meant partnering with the charity on a PR campaign across social media, radio and local papers. In this way, we helped to raise the profile of a species that would benefit from more exposure and protection from conservationists.
Our data management tool is currently being tested on the white-beaked dolphin population of Lyme Bay; it’s humbling to know that we’re helping aid the protection and conservation of this incredible species. Our tool will also help researchers assess the wider environmental factors that affect where these dolphins appear, such as rising sea temperatures.
We’re excited to harness the potential of using technology to aid in the conservation of wildlife in the UK. Our data management tool is a proof of concept that could be applied to other environmental sectors and conservation populations. Looking to the future we will continue to support MARINElife to find ways of simplifying their processes and raising awareness for the incredible work they do. We’re also committed to continuing testing new technologies and tools focused on automation and data management.
Back to case studies