Nichanan Kesonpat
Jan 3 · 7 min read

🚀🇦🇺 Last month, our team ventured down under to attend the West Tech Fest conference, which featured an incredible line-up of founders, VC’s, conservationists and tech visionaries. We gained valuable insight into marine conservation research and projects which brought fresh perspectives on how Last of Ours can bring fun and awareness to the masses to help protect wildlife and restore their habitats! Here are some highlights from our trip as well as the projects we had the pleasure of learning from.

Photo credit: Morning Startup

🏝 The inaugural Rotto Tech Fest was a full day on Rottnest Island dedicated to marine conservation and how technology is being used to collect, analyze, and interpret data. As Last of Ours will be referring to real-world data for our NFT species count and impact tracking, we were extremely excited to see the innovative techniques that researchers and engineers have come up with to study how we can best protect our planet’s marine species.

🧬 Detecting life with environmental DNA

Andrew Forest, Professor Jessica Meeuwig, Gigi Brisson and Bill Tai discussing how innovation can support ocean conservation

Did you know that columns of seawater contain valuable information about the species have passed through there? As marine animals move through the water, they leave a piece of their DNA behind via skin cells, scales, hair, excrement… you name it. Scientists have found a way to extract this DNA from water samples to analyze which species had been there. The DNA isolated and characterised from sediments and water is called environmental DNA. eDNA can give us a glimpse of biodiversity, food web dynamics, diet analysis and invasive species monitoring.

🔬 First described in 2012, the use of eDNA in water was demonstrated as an example to characterise vertebrates living in the sample. Since then, numerous studies have emerged to investigate the potential of this approach in biosecurity and biodiversity assessments. Metabarcoding eDNA has become feasible thanks to the ability to simultaneously sequence millions of copies of DNA from complex multi-species environmental samples.

Professor Mike Bunce from Curtin University presenting on DNA Metabarcoding

Professor Mike Bunce, head of the Trace and environmental DNA (TrEnD) laboratory presented his lab’s work at Rottnest to showcase the strides they have made thanks to this technique. They also have a partner program with other research labs to integrate baited remote underwater video (BRUV) technologies and eDNA as a cutting-edge tool to give us insights into how we can best manage various marine ecosystems.

💙 Building communities for ocean conservation with Hope Spots

Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue is building a global coalition to boost public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas called Hope Spots. Individuals and communities around the world can nominate marine sites which have:

  • Special abundance or diversity of species, unusual or representative species, habitats or ecosystems
  • Particular populations of rare, threatened or endemic species
  • Potential to reverse damage from negative human impacts
  • The presence of natural processes such as major migration corridors or spawning grounds
  • Significant historical, cultural or spiritual values
  • Particular economic importance to the community

We heard from the founder of the Healing Lesvos project, whose Hope Spot at Avlaki seeks to reverse the negative impact on marine life caused by plastic litter and other marine waste during the height of the European humanitarian crisis, as well as protect the extensive coastlines and marine ecosystems that coexist with abundant commercial, fishing, and shipping activities in the region.

Wreck diving in Avlaki (Image Source)

Avlaki is home to assemblages of aquatic birds, marine mammals and magnificent reefs in a vibrant volcanic environment. Chosen for its abundance of migratory species, significant historical-cultural value and economic importance to the community, the Avlaki Hope Spot has the potential to reverse the negative impact caused by humans and through ecotourism, a nascent but growing economic driver in the region.

The hope is to formalize the area as a dive park to contribute to sustainable development and give locals alternative ways to seek income and enhance their quality of life. A thriving dive park will allow divers to not only view beautiful marine life but also assist with restoring the sea basin. The dive park could catalyze the creation of a formal Greek Marine Protected Area at Avlaki, sustaining a healthy ecosystem for Mediterranean marine life. The EU has already designated several areas in the vicinity through their Natura 2000 conservation program.

Mission Blue implements campaigns that put Hope Spots on the world stage through documentaries, social media, and technologies like Google Earth. It also supports conservation NGOs around the world that share the mission of building public support for ocean protection. What will be crucial is the coming together of communities on the ground to help spread the message, educate, and reinforce formal efforts to protect and restore their local marine ecosystems.

🐟 Counting fish with baited underwater cameras

After the conference, Professor Jessica Meeuwig was kind enough to give us a tour of her lab, the Centre for Marine Futures, and a behind-the-scenes look into her team’s work — studying the effectiveness of marine parks in the open ocean.

🌊 Decades of research from the Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, and Europe have shown that the establishment of marine parks in coastal areas has resulted in more fish and bigger fish, benefiting tourism and fisheries alike. But if we wanted to extend marine parks to the open ocean, how do we measure its effectiveness in the big blue?

Analyzing BRUV footage involves identifying, counting, and measuring the lengths of fish that swim by

To answer this question, they use a baited remote underwater videography (BRUV) device to attract and record footage of marine life in a body of water. The rig is composed of a metal frame attached to a bait-filled canister, along with two GoPros which capture footage of anything swimming by. Professor Meeuwig’s team at the University of Western Australia analyzes thousands of hours of this footage from oceans around the world. This data gives us a glimpse into species diversity, abundance, behaviour and fish measurements accurate to the millimetre! From this, we can look at the outcomes of ocean protection and interpret it with other samples such as acoustics and eDNA to gain a deeper understanding of our marine ecosystems.

Beyond this, the Center for Marine Futures is exploring questions such as:

Professor Meeuwig showing us some highlights of BRUV footage analyzed by her lab.
  • 💙 How do pelagic sharks and fishes respond to the establishment of large marine reserves?
  • 🦈 What roles do apex predators (those at the top of the food chain) play in tropical marine ecosystems?
  • ☀️How is does climate variability affect fish growth, and what does this mean for warming oceans?
  • 📈 How are sharks and fishes distributed on biogeographical scales and in relation to habitat?
  • 🎣 What are the socioeconomic drivers of illegal fishing?

An example of BRUV footage from the lab:

📹Source: See the full gallery!

We are extremely grateful to Jessica and her team for taking the time to walk us through the process of equipment design, footage collection, and sifting through videos and identifying various species. The implications of this data will give insight into the effectiveness of marine protected areas and can back legislative efforts to establish MPAs in the open ocean.

Onwards 🚀

What a way to end 2018! — quokka selfies, diving with rays, turtle watching, and conversations with the best minds in the space about how we can put our innovative powers to add momentum to wildlife conservation efforts. We were extremely humbled by the excitement and feedback we received from the tech and conservation community in Australia about Last of Ours, and hope that the project can soon channel the attention, energy, and funding to help these teams on the ground make strides in the important work they do.

Beyond the trip, the team has been busy at work with product development, partnership engagements, and seeding the community that will play an important role moving forward in building public momentum for Last of Ours. We would like to invite not only the blockchain and conservation communities to join us in our adventures, but also the general public whose curiosities and daily activities are instrumental in driving the lasting changes that we want to see.

🌎 We are full steam ahead in 2019 and look forward to sharing both our progress and the work that scientists, NGOs, conservationists, and local communities are doing to protect and restore life Planet Earth!

Our next stop is Las Vegas for Sir Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge semi-finals. Catch us at our CES booth on January 10th!

💬 Join the community and stay tuned for updates on Facebook, Telegram, Twitter, Instagram, our website and of course here on Medium. Until next time!

Last of Ours is bringing people together to protect our planet’s endangered species and natural zones by creating shared value between social entertainment and real-world impact.

Using the latest real-world wildlife population estimates, Living Animal Social Tokens (LAST) are created as digital representations of individual animals and distributed for use in social entertainment applications and games. Every unique token represents a real endangered animal living in the wild, one-to-one. The tokens are collectable, tradable, and playable in various games (mobile, AR, VR).

Users are passively contributing to conservation & reforestation projects solely by participating in this entertainment ecosystem and may also actively allocate where their donations go on a transparent Kickstarter-like platform which will give visibility into the impact they have created. We are on a mission to create awareness and engagement for everyone to help protect the Last of Ours. 🦏

Last of Ours

Last of Ours is a platform for wildlife conservation initiatives to raise awareness and fund their projects. The platform enables the discovery of, and donations to, wildlife conservation projects through games and other applications.

Nichanan Kesonpat

Written by

Thailand | Oman | Bahrain. Neurobiology & Psychology @ucberkeley. ex @instacart. Talent & Ops @thoughtworks |

Last of Ours

Last of Ours is a platform for wildlife conservation initiatives to raise awareness and fund their projects. The platform enables the discovery of, and donations to, wildlife conservation projects through games and other applications.

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