Map of Life – Google Earth powered tool for species conservation

Species today are vanishing at a rate a thousand times higher than before humans existed. Some would even say that we are the worst thing that ever happened to Earth. Fortunately year by year there are more efforts for species conservation and protectiion of biodiversity.

One of them is a new tool announced on a Google Research Blog post called the Map of Life, which is a web service powered by the Google Earth Engine that can help to better define and locate species at-risk all around the world. The tool uses biodiversity data and high-resolution habitat information to locate and evaluate the actual conditions of species in greater detail than ever. It features almost 4 million records of 1 million species in 200 datasets.

Map Of Life - Geoawesomeness

At the fingertips of regional naturalists, conservation groups, resource managers and global threat assessors, the tool has the potential to help identify and close key information gaps and highlight species of greatest concern.

Lets look at the quick case study of the Tamaulipas Pygmy Owl, one of the smallest owls in the world that is restricted to highland forests in Mexico. The consensus range map for the species indicate its distribution of over 50k km2. But accounting for available habitat in the area using remotely sensed information shows a totally different picture. According to the data less than 10% of this range are forested and at the suitable elevation.

Map of Life 2 - Geoaweosmeness

The tool similarly lets users adjust various settings to explore how certain changed parameters affect the map.

Cool project!

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Garmin acquires South African bike radar startup iKubu


Garmin announced the acquisition of iKubu – South African start-up which developed low-energy radar technology for bikers called Backtracker. The radar mounts on the rear of the bike, with the data sent wirelessly to a device mounted on the bike’s handlebars. It can detect cars approaching from the back at a distance of 140 meters.

Garmin is one of the global leaders in GPS consumer devices. Although it started from PNDs (Person Navigation Devices) back in 1989, today the brand is mostly associated with GPS solutions for runners and cyclists with low-, mid-, and high-end watches.

With the acquisition of iKubu Garmin invests in solving a real-life problem of cyclists around the world. And the market is huge. In Europe bikes are a major urban mean of transportation for most of German, Danish and Dutch citizens. In US cycling is also beginning to be more and more popular. Cliff Pemble, the CEO of Garmin, said in a press release:

iKubu has found a way to implement short-range radar into a low-power system that addresses a common concern among cyclists — identifying potential hazards that are approaching them from behind. We are
delighted to add this technology to the Garmin portfolio.

iKubu was founded in 2006 by Franz Struwig and Denho Geldenhuys, as a spin-off from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. The idea for Backtracker was born in 2010 when the team wanted a technology solution to help reduce the risk associated with cycling in traffic. Guys at iKubu spent a year trying to secure South African and international investors for Backtracker. Instead, they decided to take the product to market on their own through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

iKubu employees will now join Garmin’s branch in South Africa, where they will “continue to operate primarily as a research and development center,” the company says. Financial details of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.

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