Data and analysis can save lives: human and crocodilian
Imperial College London ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Award No. PSA261_LBEGC
PI: Dr Simon Pooley
Human-wildlife conflict is a major issue for wildlife conservation, particularly in the developing world where rural people live alongside large, dangerous animals. Policies and interventions for managing human-animal conflict are often based on generalisations founded on insufficient data. At best, this makes policies ineffective and poorly targeted; at worst, people and animals are being killed or maimed unnecessarily.
This project aims to mobilise databases and data visualisations to encourage interactive human-animal conflict research and measures in key regions for human-wildlife conflict. We have extensive research experience and data on crocodile attacks, and are working on new ways of interpreting such data. However, to date, most of this kind of data ends up in little-used departmental reports, doctoral theses and journal articles. This funding will enable us to facilitate the application of our research to user communities, which will inform and benefit society at large.
Every year hundreds of mostly rural people are killed or maimed in adverse encounters with crocodiles, with serious emotional, social and economic costs to the victims and their communities, and we believe that partnerships between researchers, managers and the public can substantially reduce such tragic incidents. This project will show Imperial College London and the ESRC’s commitment to funding innovative research which has real-world impact.
We need to engage the public, local authorities and health workers, and conservation managers, to both contribute data relevant to understanding crocodile attacks, and explore and utilise this data to avoid attacks. The relevant data is inherently social and ecological, and we need to be innovative about deciding what data to capture and how to visualise it. Institutionally, we will work with local conservation management agencies, NGOs and schools to both harness and disseminate data and mitigation advice.
The project is led by Dr Simon Pooley at Imperial College Conservation Science, in consultation with Dr Adam Britton (Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory, Australia) and Brandon Sideleau (California), the founders of the CrocBite database.
The activities to be funded are:
1. Data visualizations
Simon Pooley will work on this with the Information is Beautiful studio (iibstudio.com). The team (David McCandless, Duncan Swain and Rebecca Conroy) are experts on data visualisation and design who have done work for the BBC, Visa, Costing the Earth, and the FT among others. The deliverable will be data visualisations incorporating social and ecological variables relevant for mitigating adverse encounters between humans and crocodiles.
2. Software engineering
Adam will co-ordinate upgrading and development of this database, first developed with seed funding from Charles Darwin University. This ESRC project will enable adding a data visualisation for analysis element, which will be developed iteratively with user-feedback involving teachers and schoolchildren in Swaziland and conservation managers in South Africa. The deliverable will be a beta version of the website online and fully functional by spring 2015.
3. Schools/ outreach
We aim to work with local experts and schools initially in Swaziland and South Africa on developing educational resources and accessibility of the website. Initially we will work with Lucinda Bride, who teaches biology and Environmental Systems and Societies at Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, in Swaziland.
Impact and future plans
This ESRC IAA grant will enable us to interact with our target audiences and develop tools best suited to achieving the mitigation of adverse human-crocodile encounters, so helping to save lives: human and crocodilian. The aim is to have a beta version of the interactive database and data visualisation website online by spring 2015, developed iteratively with target users, and include a downloadable educational resource. Imperial College London and the ESRC will have funded what will hopefully become a widely used resource across Africa, and ideally ultimately in Asia and Indonesia too.