As the availability of technology increases, so does data management complexity. How does a conservation manager integrate a surge of incoming information from animal GPS collars, cellular trail cameras, field locations of snares from rangers on patrol, drone imagery, and satellite data in the most efficient way possible?

Vulcan EarthRanger solves that problem. EarthRanger is an easy-to-use online software platform that collects, integrates, and displays all available historical and real-time data from a given protected area. The software combines all of this data into a single, continuously updated map, so that managers can monitor the ecosystem, anticipate potential poaching threats or human-wildlife conflict, and react to ongoing threats in real-time.

Before EarthRanger, operations rooms contained multiple screens, each displaying different data, which were impossible to watch all at once. Even when they could monitor incoming information, it was difficult to visualize patterns between different data sets.

EarthRanger is a “one-stop data hub” that integrates multiple data streams that used to be housed on separate devices. This gives managers a complete picture of their protected area in real time, allowing them to more quickly deploy ranger teams in response to a threat. They can also use EarthRanger to analyze patterns, helping them to anticipate crimes and apprehend poachers before an animal is killed. Rangers and managers are now able to monitor the situation from afar and focus on interdiction rather than just response.

EarthRanger helps managers figure out how to allocate their resources most efficiently to stop poaching and human-wildlife conflict. For national parks and protected areas that are often short on funds and staff, this “force multiplier” effect is crucial, making sure that rangers are in the right place at the right time. Further, it allows rangers to respond more quickly to potential threats, and the larger amount of information helps keep them safer.

Some examples of EarthRanger’s capabilities:

1. Managers can monitor multiple wildlife GPS collars and set up alerts when an animal wanders out of the reserve or close to a village, allowing them to intervene when necessary and help communities to better coexist with wildlife.

2. Use computer vision and machine learning to tally the number of animals in photos captured by drones.

3. Law enforcement officials can track their ranger teams through GPS-powered walkietalkies and accurately direct them to the location of suspicious activity.

4. Comprehensive visualization allows officials to track patterns that inform their patrol deployments – positioning themselves a step ahead of poachers.

5. Ecological monitoring, which improves scientists’ understanding of the ecosystem’s health, helps answer questions like, “How should we respond if there’s a drought?” and “What does the ecosystem need to look like if we want to reintroduce rhinos?”

6. Outreach and education events can be input into EarthRanger, and analyzed in terms of how public programming impacts poaching numbers. EarthRanger data comes from, among others:

  • Ranger-recorded observations directly from CyberTracker-SMART Connect
  • Radio systems with data transmission and GPS-tracking capabilities
  • Animal collars
  • GPS trackers in contraband, like rhino horns or illegal timber
  • Informant information
  • Spatial data layers that give geographic context, like hydrology, human infrastructure, and forest cover
  • Sensor data from camera traps
  • Vehicle sensors
  • Drones and remote sensing images from satellites

The data are stored in a secure cloud platform and readily accessible to visualize through the EarthRanger web app, an iOS app, Google Earth or to be downloaded for further analysis within GIS software. A total of 20 locations worldwide are currently using EarthRanger, and since its first deployment in 2017, rangers and park managers have used EarthRanger to log more than 32,000 security reports, remove more than 13,000 snares and make more than 1,170 arrests.