Okavango Wilderness Project

the work with the National Geographic funded Okavango Wilderness Project seeks to fundamentally open up the way scientific field expeditions are conducted. In 2014, a team of National Geographic Explorers (including myself) traveled along the Okavango Delta in Botswana, sharing every piece of data we collected including environmental readings, water quality, wildlife sightings, biometrics, and more to any researcher, citizen scientist, artist, student, or interested person that wanted it (through access to the IntoTheOkavango.org API). This is revolutionary because, in the past scientists would go on expeditions and collect data, just to closely guard the data until they can publish it and gain accolades. We were seeking to do exactly the opposite. I am the project technologist and open hardware designer, focused on water and air quality testing and building of prototype environmental monitoring stations based off the Raspberry Pi. For the 2015 expedition, I am building a mesh network of open source environmental sensors to help us measure, in real time, the heartbeat and health of this critical habitat. We are equipping the expedition canoes (mokoros) with connected conservation devices to map environmental data as the three-month expedition travels from the source of the delta in Angola, through Namibia, and into Botswana. The open source hardware and software used for this are part of the baseline that Conservify is built upon.

Delta in Danger

Botswana’s Okavango Delta was listed as UNESCO’s 1,000th World Heritage Site in June this year. This long overdue accolade acknowledges a world-class tourism destination and natural wonder that earns annual revenues in excess of $400 million. The “Jewel of the Kalahari”, visible from space, will choke and die within years if proposed dams, irrigation schemes, weirs, rice production, mining, and logging are established in the Okavango’s Angolan catchment. This project aims to establish new national parks and wildlife corridors, inspire and empower community- based conservation along the river, and ultimately protect Africa’s largest and safest elephant population in the Okavango Delta.

Angola is Africa’s second largest oil producer with one of the fastest-growing economies on the continent. The Okavango Wilderness Project supports the founding objectives of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) and their Strategic Action Programme (SAP 2011) through alignment with the core objectives of achieving sustainable development, environmental stability and poverty alleviation.

Yearly expedition on the water

The 2015 Okavango River Expedition will kick-start a three-year process geared at establishing new national parks, wildlife corridors and tourism development nodes that benefit local people, wildlife and the river itself. This long-term conservation project will focus global attention on the preservation of the world’s largest undeveloped river catchment and most important internationally recognized Ramsar wetland.

Environmental internet of things sensors

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Real-time expedition databoats

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These are some of the files that we use.

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