Crowdsourcing to Fight Invasives!

July 14, 2014

By: John Hagihara


Screenshot from Tomnod











The Nature Conservancy recently launched a “Hawai‘i Challenge” to identify and map invasive species in Hawai‘i’s forests via DigitalGlobe’s crowdsourcing project, Tomnod. Tomnod has previously been used to help search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and to help map damage caused during Super Typhoon Haiyan. This online mapping application leverages the power of crowdsourcing to identify objects or places with aerial images.

For the Hawai‘i Challenge, The Nature Conservancy has collected high-resolution aerial images in the area around the upper Hanalei Valley, and are asking for volunteers to help tag the locations of invasive plants. With this crowdsourcing effort, The Nature Conservancy will be able identify and locate these weeds much more quickly than if they were to do it alone. That leaves more time and resources for them to spend on the complicated process of eradicating these invasive weeds.

Photo by Ethan Welty, The Nature Conservancy Magazine

Photo by Ethan Welty, The Nature Conservancy Magazine

The Hawai‘i Challenge is focusing on two specific invasive plants, the Australian Tree Fern (shown above), and the African Tulip. Both made their way to Kaua‘i as ornamental plants, but have since become significant weeds that crowd out native forests and threaten the health of our island watersheds. Once you start tagging these plants, you will get a sense for just how pervasive these invasive plants are.

Screenshot of Hawai‘i Challenge in action on tomnod

Screenshot of us taking part in the Hawai‘i Challenge on tomnod

The task of controlling invasive species in Hawai‘i is immense, but as we know here in Hawai‘i, ‘A ‘ohe hana nui ke alu‘ia (no task is too large when done together by all). Already over 7500 individuals have helped to make over 1.3 million observations for the Hawai‘i Challenge. When you get the chance, give it a try. It’s a fun, educational, and rewarding experience, and anyone can do it.


Take part in the The Nature Conservancy’s Hawai‘i Challenge!

Check out The Nature Conservancy blog.

Listen to HPR Bytemarks Café, Episode 306.

See other Tomnod campaigns here.

What we’re doing to help:

Early detection is key in the fight against invasive species and HHF is currently involved in an exciting and landmark project for the State of Hawai‘i along those lines, to create special landscapes that are specifically designed and located for the early detection of noxious invasive pests. These special landscapes could provide a crucial line of defense against the spread of invasive pests in our islands, and could work as a model for others to follow elsewhere.

The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle recently featured in local news, is an example of an invasive species that has been detected, that could have significant and far-reaching effects on Hawai‘i’s ecosystem, beauty and economy. What would Hawai‘i look like without coconut trees?

Stand by for more details as the project progresses!

About the author:

John Hagihara is a Senior Planner and LEED Green Associate with experience in alternative transportation planning, environmental planning, geographic information systems, and disaster management. As an avid cyclist and outdoor enthusiast, he is an active participant in bicycling advocacy and community based natural resource management programs on O‘ahu.

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