It’s six o’clock in the morning in San Jose, Costa Rica, and I am heading off for a day at La Selva, one of the country’s rainforests. In the lobby I meet with Dr. Jorge Ahumada from Conservation International (CI) and his team, who kindly host me and my HP colleagues on this trip.
A 90-minute cross-country ride lies ahead of us, which gives me enough time to learn from Jorge and his colleagues about La Selva and the biological situation there. I also hear about the latest developments of HP Earth Insights, an initiative that demonstrates how we empower proactive responses to environmental threats, protect livelihoods and deliver analytics that businesses can use to fuel growth. HP Earth Insights is a powerful example of HP Living Progress — our vision for how HP can create a better future for everyone through our actions and innovations.
Last year HP and CI entered into a unique partnership to help CI and the Tropical Ecology Assessment (TEAM) Network better and more quickly analyze the data they collect in tropical forests. La Selva hosts one of the stations where CI has installed trap cameras that give insights into the lives of the species living there.
We arrive at La Selva around 8:30 am and meet with the scientific director, who gives us more background on the protected areas before we go to the field.
I am totally excited as I have never been to a rainforest before, and it lives up to its reputation today.
We start our walk to a TEAM vegetation plot where, in the company of spider monkeys and owl butterflies, we learn how to measure lianas and see how a camera trap is being installed, a meticulous process that requires a high level of attention and detail.
For this project, HP addresses the specific need to collect, manage and analyze millions of inputs from climate sensors and camera traps related to species, vegetation, precipitation, temperature, carbon stocks, humidity, solar radiation and more.
As of September 2014, the project currently manages large and growing amounts and varieties of data, including 3 terabytes of critical biodiversity information, more than 1.9 million photos and more than 4 million climate measurements — not only at La Selva but at 17 TEAM sites across 16 countries.
Our solutions can analyze the data nine times faster than before, generating species trends and indications of the related impacts of climate, people and land use across the 17 research sites and more than 275 species within 30 hours. No other system can do this.
The resulting data analysis allows scientists, government officials and the wider public to see changes in ecology and biodiversity unfold in near-real time. This enables proactive response to environmental threats as they emerge.
And the project is already showing results: Initial findings show that of the 275 species being monitored, 14 percent are either significantly decreasing in population or likely decreasing compared with baseline levels.
And this is highly relevant to the local situation in Costa Rica and its neighboring countries. Findings show that while the ocelot population in Panama shows stability, the same population in Costa Rica is in decline. The same is true for the great curassow.
How can this be? The relative protected area size and surrounding buffer zones of Central Panama’s Barro Colorado Nature Monument and the Soberanía National Park could well be contributing to these differences.
“The data we are collecting at La Selva and Braulio Carillo National Park in Costa Rica is helping park officials improve the management of species in these areas, in particular the species that seem to be declining,” said Dr. Ahumada. “This is the power of big data in action.”
I can only thank Jorge and his team for being fantastic hosts and teachers and offering me and the HP team these insights at La Selva. I personally will stay closely connected to the project and look forward to seeing the next developments and results.
This post first appeared on HP's Next blog on September 16, 2014.