Isla Duporge

Research Interests

I am a Mistler Graduate Scholar at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit WildCRUwithin the Department of Zoology working on a DPhil research project situated within WildCRU’s Programme on Conservation Geopolitics.

I have a MSc degree in Environmental Science and Remote Sensing from Uppsala University and SLU in Sweden and The University of Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria. I was previously based at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) who have a mandate to combat Wildlife and Forest Crime as a Visiting Research Scholar looking at the use of geospatial technologies to combat Wildlife Crime.The United Nations of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) supported me to collect data for this research.

My DPhil research is concerned with developing methodologies using geospatial and remote sensing tools to increase count precision, collection efficiency and cost effectiveness in wildlife monitoring as compared with conventional ground-based sampling methods. I am using DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3 & 4 Satellites to locate elephants in open Savannah in the Kavango Zambezi Ecosystem. This is being used as training data in a Convolution Neural Network to teach an algorithm to automate detection of elephants- I am working with the University of Oxford Machine Learning Lab on this research. As the resolution and revisit frequency of optical satellites increases and the cost of imagery drops it is anticipated that wildlife monitoring using very high resolution imagery can replace aerial surveys for large bodied terrestrial mammals or those with high spectral reflectance in many environments.

Additionally, I am testing the accuracy of using a long-range fixed wing drone (WingtraOne) to conduct a wildlife survey in Southern Zambia. As a wildlife monitoring technique UAV research has shown lower cumulative variance in results than traditional ground based sampling methods and the nadir perspective reduces the possibility of missed counts due to topography. Another aspect of my research is looking at the intersection between land tenure and endangered species range and the use of open land tenure tools to clarify land ownership arrangements. I am interested in the way colonial and post-colonial land ownership systems have shaped modern institutional arrangements that govern wildlife resources in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration are supporting my DPhil Fieldwork as an ‘Early Career Explorer’.

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