Inspiring solutions: Ecohack World @ CartoDB (Part II)

Leveraging Tech to Raise Conservation Awareness: 12 hours later.

Interested Citizens and CartoDB Team EcoHack Conservation: Map Travel Behaviors of Seals, Porpoises, Turtles, and Dolphins.

Today started with a group of inspired technologists and CartoDB staff getting together to discuss conservation efforts and exploring opportunities to communicate, understand and defend protected areas. After some coffee, bagels and digging around for interesting conservation data sets, the team agreed to study a dataset from Wheelock College’s WhaleNet program, a source for real-time satellite tracking data from seals, porpoises, turtles and dolphins.

Our first steps consisted of obtaining data sets for unique mammals from WhaleNet. This meant copying and pasting historic satellite coordinates for each animal into a comma separated value (CSV) format and then uploading those tables into CartoDB data tables. As a side-note, it might be interesting to create a public API so that folks from around the world can write programs and build applications based on real-time data feeds from the amazing WhaleNet data.

Our first CartoDB table consisted of every logged geographic coordinate for each mammal. There were some interesting moments, like when we realized that there was a data point from seal near Albany, New York (i.e., verrrry inland!). Turned out that there had indeed been a seal siting 55 miles up the Hudson River!! Once we cleaned the data, we performed a SQL query (ST_MakeLine) to chronologically connect data points for each unique animal. Our third principal layer consisted of duplicating our original geographic coordinate table and turning on CartoDB’s Torque function to demonstrate the chronology.

After entering the data into CartoDB we wanted to enhance the user experience of the visualization - this meant allowing users to view the data at the aggregate level (all of the animals) and navigate into the database to understand the travel behaviors of unique species. In order to build out this functionality we leveraged JavaScript and SQL to call the correct information. Once the user accesses a specific species from the database she can then view pictures of the unique mammals using User Interface dots.

The WhaleNet platform was built to support learning across many fields and enhance general interest in science, creating opportunities for exciting interactions between students, teachers, researchers. The visualization allows users to understand the behaviors of important aquatic species as they travel around the world. We hope our efforts help advance science and conservation and demonstrate the impact of the WhaleNet project!

Want to follow some dolphins, turtles and seals around the world? check out our #ecohack app!

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WhaleNet is sponsored by Wheelock College and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, with initial funding from the National Science Foundation. CartoDB is grateful to these organizations for making such an important and interesting set of data available - we enjoyed hacking on it!!

CartoDB also really appreciated the talents of Robbie Kraft and Mariko Kosaka who were instrumental in the success of EcoHacks NY 2014!

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