At Wild Me, we spend a lot of time working on our wildlife research projects, and we get some pretty amazing results.
If each animal in a population could be photographed and uniquely identified many times each day, the science of ecology and population biology, together with the resource management, biodiversity, and conservation decisions that depend on this science, could be dramatically improved. We would be able to accurately track population sizes, species distributions, and movement patterns. We would be able to understand social structures, mating patterns, inter-species relationships, and responses to environmental pressures, including land use by humans and long-term climate patterns. Wildlife managers could better monitor the health of entire populations, discover dangerous trends, and avoid conflicts between humans and wildlife. Contributing this information and access to it would increase the public’s engagement in science and conservation, making them true citizen scientists and policy makers.
A team of faculty, students and engineers at Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Wild Me is dedicated to building this Image-Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS), turning massive collections of images into a high-resolution information database about animals. We will start from our current tools – the HotSpotter software for individual animal identification and the Wildbook ecological information management system.
Wildbook is an open source software framework to support mark-recapture, molecular ecology, and social ecology studies. Wildbook is a reusable platform that supports our whale shark and manta research efforts. Investments in expanding the analytics and management capabilities of the Wildbook yield benefits for other species using the software, including humpback whales and polar bears.
Wild Me is a social media app that pulls data from real scientific studies on wildlife and brings it into our lives. Individual animals like whale sharks, manta rays, polar bears, etc., all get their own bio page that allows you to follow their travels as well as observe social interactions with family and friends. Incredible pictures, maps, and news updates from scientists will keep animal lovers up-to-date on all the latest information about each animal.
Wildbook for Whale Sharks is a visual database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounters and of individually cataloged whale sharks. The library is used by marine biologists all over the world to collect and analyse whale shark encounter data to learn more about these amazing creatures. Wild Me handles the hosting, software development, maintenance, data analysis, and scientific coordination of this collaborative tool for global whale shark research. Year upon year, we’re breaking records for collecting data for this once “rare” species, and we demonstrate its value by writing or supporting scientific publications.
MantaMatcher represents the first global manta ray database. This site was specifically designed to manage manta ray sightings and identifications across their distribution. After the success of the whale shark database, Manta Matcher was a logical follow-up. Manta rays are widely distributed, migratory, and have unique spot patterning on their ventral surface that can be used to permanently identify individuals. At the present time, this database will enable researchers to upload and organize individually identified manta rays in their populations. This system is also intended to promote collaborations by way of cross-referencing databases to check for both regional and long distance movement.
The following individuals help guide Wild Me.
ZAVEN ARZOUMANIAN, Director, President
Zaven Arzoumanian earned degrees in Physics at McGill University (B.Sc.) and Princeton University (M.A., Ph.D.). His research interests include the astrophysics of neutron stars and black holes, testing theories of gravitation and the nature of matter in extreme environments, and new technologies for instrumentation in radio and X-ray astronomy. Zaven is employed as a contract scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, USA. Zaven’s interest in Whale Sharks and pattern-matching computations for biological applications was cultivated in a collaboration with Jason Holmberg and Brad Norman, culminating in the development of a technique for matching spot patterns adapted from astronomy, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology (May 2005).
Universities Space Research Association
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
JASON HOLMBERG, Director, Secretary
Jason Holmberg has logged thousands of hours of development time on Wildbook for Whale Sharks. As Wild Me’s Information Architect, he has designed and implemented new tools to support digital pattern recognition for Whale Sharks. Using Jason’s tools, the project has been able to categorize and manage a large amount of Whale Shark data and to identify individual animals from multiple photos taken by different researchers many years apart. Jason also encourages public participation in whale shark research via an automated email system that sends individual data contributors automatic updates on individual Whale Shark re-sightings. Jason also undertook further field-testing of the project’s methodology and technology in the Galapagos Islands in October 2004, Honduras in March 2005 and Australia in April 2005. He gave two talks at the International Whale Shark Conference in Perth, Australia in May 2005 and later that year accepted a Duke’s Choice Award on behalf of the team for innovative use of Java technology for Whale Shark data management and pattern recognition. Jason co-authored a widely lauded paper with Zaven Arzoumanian and Brad Norman on a 12-year population study at Ningaloo Marine Park in Ecological Applications (January 2008).
ANDREA MARSHALL, Science Coordinator
Andrea Marshall is a conservation biologist, working in Mozambique on the ecology of both species of manta rays. Educated in the United States and Australia, Andrea was the first person in the world to complete a PhD on manta rays. After completing her thesis Andrea stayed on to spearhead the conservation efforts of these species in Mozambique. After almost a decade of work in the region, she founded the Marine Megafauna Association. Her world-leading manta ray research program examines aspects of their biology, reproductive ecology, habitat use, migrations and social behaviour. Aside from dramatically increasing the level of knowledge on manta rays themselves, Andrea’s discovery of a new giant species of manta ray in 2008 was one of the largest new species to have been described by any scientist in the last 50 years. In addition to her busy international research schedule Andrea spends many months of the year working on conservation initiatives at home and abroad.
MARK MCBRIDE, Director
Mark McBride is a software developer at Twitter Inc., building APIs that allow developers to access Twitter capabilities. He is interested in all aspects of software development, as well as sustainability and conservation.
SIMON PIERCE, Director, Science Coordinator
Simon Pierce is a conservation ecologist focusing on threatened marine species, particularly sharks and rays. Simon, a New Zealand native, has been based in Mozambique since 2005 where he leads research efforts on a large year-round aggregation of whale sharks. Simon’s whale shark research examines the population ecology, movements and conservation status of these enormous fishes. His research is designed to bridge the gap between science in management in order to develop and implement effective conservation solutions. Simon is a Lead Scientist at the Marine Megafauna Association in Mozambique and Executive Director of Eyes on the Horizon, a national Mozambican marine conservation organisation. He holds a BSc degree from Victoria University of Wellington (NZ) and a BSc (Hons) and PhD from The University of Queensland (Australia).
ZAID ZAID, Director
Zaid A. Zaid is a senior associate in the Litigation/Controversy Department, and a member of the Investigations and Criminal Litigation Practice Group. Zaid completed a summer clerkship in the Office of the Legal Advisor at the United States Department of State, where he drafted memos concerning the Iran-US Claims Tribunal and researched for NAFTA Chapter 11 investment claims against the US Government. Zaid was a political officer in the Foreign Service from 1999 to 2006, and he worked at US embassies in Syria, Tunis, Cairo, the US Mission to the United Nations, and with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq as the liaison to the Iraqi Governing Council as well as at the US Embassy in Baghdad. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the American Bar Association. He is the chair of the Fletcher Alumni Club of Washington DC, a board member of Wild Me, a member of the American Constitution Society, a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project.
Washington, DC 20006
JAKE LEVENSON, Director
We are getting together biographic information for Jake right now…