Hackathon bids to save world’s rarest marine mammal

With a tiny porpoise called the Vaquita on the verge of extinction, a hackathon is aiming to uncover a technological solution to keeping the species alive

A hackathon has been launched in a bid to save the Vaquita – the world’s rarest marine mammal.

Experts say that fewer than 10 of the small porpoises – only discovered in 1958 – remain in their sole habitat, Mexico’s Gulf of California, with extinction forecast to follow next year.

Thus, Vaquita Hacks, a virtual hackathon taking place on 12– 13 December, seeks to find technological and AI solutions to avert the species’ demise.

Open to students and early career conservationists, and boasting US$20,000 worth of prizes from Microsoft, the event was conceived by The Conservation Project International in partnership with Earth League International, Earth Hacks and the Countering Wildlife Trafficking Institute.

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“As well as having a real-world impact on the global fight to save the Vaquita, Vaquita Hacks will provide valuable professional experience and networking opportunities for our participants,” said Harry Wright, director and co-founder of The Conservation Project International.

“While many young people are passionate about conserving our planet, it can be difficult to find a job in this competitive market. Through projects such as Vaquita Hacks, The Conservation Project International aims to empower the next generation of conservationists to become future leaders in the field.”

Participants will work in three different fields – wildlife crime law, science and criminal analytics, and public engagement and civic action – to tackle the issues faced by the Vaquita.

“Up until now, hackathons have been a largely untapped model of innovation in the conservation space for species-specific issues,” said Sanjana Paul, executive director of Earth Hacks.

“While complex problems at the intersection of human and animal rights, environmental and species conservation, criminology and many other fields, can’t be solved in a weekend, producing working solutions to specific, smaller facets is feasible.

“We hope that the lessons learned and projects developed at this hackathon are applicable for future conservation efforts, and that the innovative format of this initiative exposes more people outside the field to conservation issues.”

To apply for a place at Vaquita Hacks or for further information about The Conservation Project International, visit www.tcproject.co.uk.  

Pic credit: Paula Olson

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