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How technology made From Kurils With Love possible
While From Kurils with Love was getting airtime at various festivals during the first half of 2020, the overwhelming feedback seemed to be: how can we see more of the Kurils? How can we learn more about the Kurils? How can we understand the challenges that Vladimir Burkanov is facing on his mission to protect the Kurils?
With lockdown policies in place in most countries due to the Corona pandemic our impact on the environment becomes more apparent each day. With people isolating at home, not travelling, and planes staying on the ground nature seems to recover from pollution: clear canals in Venice, reduced air pollution in China and major cities all over the world, and a fallen global carbon emission. Still, climate change has not stopped, with a record heatwave in Antarctica, which has impacts on all of our planet's climate, and countries like Germany, which are usually blessed with a lot of rain, facing droughts. Realizing how our own actions can positively or negatively affect our environment is a wakeup call for everyone, as we cannot deny the positive impacts of the lockdown on our environment. So, as the official motto of Earth Day 2020 is climate action, we want to discover what technologies may help us in stopping climate change and creating a better future.
Saving Earth with Blockchain<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="59c9590c7f2dbfd83ea82b8a07f9e24b"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VKZJD1Zz4kU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> An important aspect of saving our future is to rebuild what we have already lost. <a href="https://www.regen.network/" target="_blank">Regan Network</a> is a blockchain technology, which tracks, verifies and rewards ecological system improvement. Roland Harwood, founder of the <a href="https://www.weareliminal.co/" target="_blank">Liminal Collective Intelligence Community</a>, is very excited about this project: "They [Regan Network] gather data with satellites, sensors and observation, and upload it to a data marketplace. Governments, institutions and businesses can pay for accurate ecological data, and the results they want, from farmers anywhere in the world. It makes it possible [for governments and organizations] to financially reward ecological progress, like improved soil, cleaner rivers and replanted forest."</p>
Clean Energy<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="817e226812bf60b01daf42ffd9dec570"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zfz52w7znEw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> Sun, water, wind or even biowaste: Earth has a lot of natural resources we could harvest for energy without them running out or polluting nature like fossil fuels do. Green energy is one of the most efficient actions for cities and whole countries towards becoming carbon neutral and thus should be a priority moving forward, says Andrew Winton, Vice President of Marketing at Kaspersky. "The possibilities around <a href="https://www.tomorrowunlocked.com/kinetic-energy-future-power-source" target="_self">kinetic energy</a> are almost limitless, beyond the hybrid cars we're most familiar with. Devices can <a href="https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/fitness/power-music-player-with-running-shoes.htm" target="_blank">charge your phone by the movement of your running shoes</a> as you jog. <a href="http://www.kps.energy/" target="_blank">Kites can use more powerful wind speeds high in the sky to produce more energy</a> than ground-based wind turbines."</p>
We Create Change<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="73e2696dc10a2abad43a159da3cdb187"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7KXGZAEWzn0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> A lot of us preach change, but sometimes we tend to forget that change starts within us. If we want to save the world, and stop climate change, we are the ones who have to take action. "The best way to protect the earth isn't technology. It's us. If we change the way we think and act, we will change the future. We're only just getting started. Technology is more of an amplifier of thoughts and actions," says Irina Bock, eCommerce Director at Kaspersky. To want to change we have to understand the value of earth. Tomorrow Unlocked author Marco Preuss is certain, that sending people in power to space to have a look at Earth, could help in driving green policies: "I had the chance to talk to astronauts, and they all agreed, once you see Earth from space, you realize how wonderful and fragile it is, and you think differently. You value it more."</p>
The engine of the ship Afina, our home on the From Kurils with Love expedition, was quiet. The only noise making its way into our cabins came from the sound of waves slapping against the hull of the ship. As I emerged from below deck, I saw it was misty that day. The only sense of direction I had was a vague one- we were somewhere in the North Pacific, a few hundred kilometers northwest of Japan, in a place that you would never have found on a map if not for the likes of Google maps: Tyuleny Island.
Getting ready<div id="7d623" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="be56cd2146f7e0dae0ef75de64fdc12a"><blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> </div></div><p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B0EALrUlVsF/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">Login • Instagram</a></p> </div></blockquote></div><p>The film crew, myself included, scrambled to get ready that morning. We were pushing through the chaos of the end of the trip- exhaustion, scattered gear, and the slight hangover that comes from time spent on a ship with old (and new) friends.</p><p>Dr. Vladimir Burkanov, our unexpected guest on the journey, was already drifting into the fog in a zodiac. It was laden with 42-gallon barrels filled of water that would supply the research station on Tyuleny Island. </p> We struggled to catch up with him, but a few minutes later, I was on another zodiac speeding off into the mist towards the island. All around me the heads of dozens, if not hundreds, of northern fur seals snuck out of the water surface. They silently stared at us, curious at the sight of the vessel passing by, before dipping back into the depths.
The smell of nature<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMDQyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzYzNDc3NX0._gwr-2wC78Z8zM-KO-tb73xaDW3BnU2yxjcBPrrUt8A/img.jpg?width=980" id="f4eae" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f5bb763bc18572c4891dafb4b1773a57" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Renan Ozturk<p>Soon after the island came into view. The Tyuleny Island Research Station sat behind the slope of a narrow, boulder filled beach. At first glance I remember thinking that the boulders were moving. And sure enough, they were, but they weren't boulders- almost every corner of open space was covered with sprawling masses of the northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions.</p><p>It wasn't long after that I noticed the smell- not an unfamiliar one to me, but… one that seemed stronger than I had experienced before. Much stronger. </p><p>It was the smell of not tens, or hundreds, or even thousands of northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions, but <em>tens of thousands. </em>50.000 of them, to be precise.</p><p>If, at this point in the story, you are wondering how and why so many large animals can make a living on an island that doesn't even reach 650 meters at its longest point- you are asking the right question. </p><p>The changes in the population of northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions here, along with their behavior and mating habits, are the exact reason Vladimir and his team spend months at the Tyuleny Island research station. </p>
No kitchen, no heating - pure research<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMDY4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjI0MzgwNH0.F3ez4YrZkGsPEdK0RNJG227BhcekzK58Y8SHsOklHrU/img.jpg?width=980" id="50410" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4b1520c5e3a53d3b19fefdec070cd80c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chris Burkard<p>As I walked into the Tyuleny Island Research station, a building without heating or a working kitchen, I was surprised to see Vladimir's students and colleagues inside one of the rooms with computer screens dotted with aerial imagery and complex computing software.</p><p>The team inside the room was a small one: besides Vladimir and his colleague and the field station leader Ivan Usatov, efforts on Tyuleny are built upon the work of Anya Kirillova, a researcher from Nizhniy Novgorod; Dasha Gerasimova, a veterinary student from Irkutsk, Egor Vasyukov, a student from Kirov, and Sasha Igitov, volunteer from Kirov. </p>
The Challenge: Studying 50.000 marine mammals<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMDQ2NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzI0MDI0OX0.pw7C9xb9saTuxcmgV2IZrsPocCe3JftTpfggdnWTJOw/img.png?width=980" id="1c50a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="445e6e28c3e9b7a271ecf60eef38c535" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Taylor Rees<p>Studying such a large population is a daunting task. Simply navigating through the cacophony of sounds and smells while weaving through the moving maze of seal and sea lion bodies was a challenge for us as one-day visitors to the island. As an ocean scientist myself, I couldn't imagine the amount of labor that would be needed to get regular counts of the population here and how it changes on a week-to-week and day-to-day basis. On top of that, the team on the island is a small team with limited resources, supported only by occasional supply runs, making it all seem like an impossible task. Each survey would take days of intense work, and in order to get the best quality of data, this process would need to happen ad infinitum during each field season.</p><p>But Vladimir and his team have found a way to survey the populations anywhere from four to six times a day. How?</p>
The technology behind the research<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMDQzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNjE1NzEyM30.-uaaz6q-Wo7Bk1pdisLGhH16IdeUSbaDsN9xKEt_2Bc/img.jpg?width=980" id="b79c7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8f873373a0608d88d522078dd3a1a2b8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chris Burkard<p>It all started when Vladimir's colleague Ivan taught himself to use U-Net: a type of convolutional neural network, originally made for medical purposes, which is designed to work with limited numbers of images as a training set.</p><p>Using U-net alongside existing drone technology, Vladimir and his team can capture aerial imagery suited to specific research questions. In some cases, for example, the team wants counts of Stellar sea lions and northern fur seals by age/sex (pups, juveniles, mature adults). Data related to other behaviors is also captured, like how many males and females have territory, tracking specific individuals with brands or injuries, or estimating body size. </p>
Taylor Rees<p>Each of these surveys requires a huge amount of data, and getting the surveys right takes practice. Test flight paths have to be developed in order to find the best altitude, speed, time of day, and image overlap that maximizes the image quality of the drones. Anywhere from one thousand to three thousand images are collected per survey - again, with 4-6 surveys a day. Once the images are all normalized to the same scale and stitched together -often called an orthophoto plan, in technical terms- an application in the statistical programming language R created by Ivan Usatov automatically processes the images and collects the relevant information.</p><p>With that, a survey that might take days of labor can now be processed from start to finish in just six hours after the images are collected, all with an error rate in the range of 4-8%. </p><p>So what are the implications of this new integration of drone technology into Vladimir's work? </p><p>While we chose to integrate technology can be complicated, it became clear that the use of drones and modern computing techniques on Tyuleny has an outsized impact in their capacity to understand marine mammals in the region. With a bit of luck and a lot of effort, the strategic use of technology by the team here may one day help conserve the natural beauty in this tiny corner of the planet. </p>