Tech for Good

Tech for Good Tech for Good
 
It’s evident to all that Paul’s life was dramatically shaped by his fascination with technology. But it’s worth noting that influence went both ways — he had a dramatic impact on technology, too. Especially when it came to pushing boundaries so technology could be used to protect our planet, its wildlife and resources, and to improve the lives of people everywhere. 
For example, when the killing of Africa’s savanna elephants accelerated dramatically due to increased global demand for ivory, Paul funded an unprecedented aerial survey aptly named the Great Elephant Census. It was the first of its kind in more than 40 years, and the first coordinated, standardized count ever attempted. It brought together more than 90 scientists, 286 flight crew members, and various NGOs to survey nearly 600,000 square miles in 18 different countries. 

The project’s success, and its sobering results, led his team to create and deploy EarthRanger in 2016. It’s an online software solution that lets park rangers track movements of wildlife, rangers, vehicles, and intrusions in real time — no small task since the regions being monitored are vast (in many cases, tens of thousands of square kilometers). But with EarthRanger, the data from hundreds of digital radios, animal collars, vehicle trackers, and sensors are compiled and transformed into actionable graphics and visualizations. This gives officials and protected area managers the ability to deploy resources quickly and efficiently when they’re needed and where they’re needed. For example, if a snare is discovered or an elephant enters a human settlement, the closest rangers can be dispatched immediately.  
 
A Save the Elephants researcher uses EarthRanger to visualize where elephants, rhinos and other tracked animals move in realtime.
The technology support provided by EarthRanger allows protected area managers to protect wildlife in real time, and provides valuable insights for future conservation and protection efforts.
 
A Save the Elephants researcher uses EarthRanger to visualize where elephants, rhinos and other tracked animals move in realtime.
The technology support provided by EarthRanger allows protected area managers to protect wildlife in real time, and provides valuable insights for future conservation and protection efforts.
Since it was first deployed at Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in 2017, EarthRanger has expanded dramatically. It now monitors wildlife reserves in hundreds of sites across six continents as it tracks the locations of over 50 endangered and vulnerable species.  

And, as the community of users continues to grow, so do use cases. This new technology is now helping to protect endangered white rhinos in the Serengeti, watching for illegal deforestation in Southeast Asia and combating locust swarms throughout East Africa. This steady expansion in vastly different locations (from the North American prairie to the coast of Mozambique) shows what a powerful enforcement tool EarthRanger is for protected area managers everywhere. 
 
EarthRanger was used by the UN's Food and Agriculture agency and partners to protect crops and pastures in East Africa from an unprecedented locust outbreak. Copyright Bobby Neptune.
 
EarthRanger was used by the UN's Food and Agriculture agency and partners to protect crops and pastures in East Africa from an unprecedented locust outbreak. Copyright Bobby Neptune.
Another similar project is Skylight. Paul and his team created it to address the huge problem of illegal fishing that runs rampant in ocean waters around the globe. Because of illegal fishing, billions of dollars are lost, human rights violations go undetected, and millions of lives are impacted. In 2020 alone, 93 percent of the world’s major marine fish stocks were either fully exploited, overexploited or significantly depleted because of unsustainable, unreported, and/or illegal fishing practices. 

With Skylight, maritime analysts are empowered to identify suspicious vessel behavior and alert authorities who can take enforcement action. By watching for suspicious behaviors like transshipment (transferring cargo from one vessel to another while in transit), refueling, and entry into protected areas, Skylight makes it possible to dispatch patrols within minutes. 
 
Watchkeeper analyzing Skylight rendezvous alerts at Zone F Operations Center in Accra, Ghana.
Example of a transshipment in process.
 
Watchkeeper analyzing Skylight rendezvous alerts at Zone F Operations Center in Accra, Ghana.
Example of a transshipment in process.
Skylight also compiles millions of incoming data points, including those from state-of-the-art radar systems. It then analyzes them using advanced machine learning and checks all findings against a global vessel registry database. 

The system currently monitors 16 million square kilometers of ocean in 19 countries. Recently, it was instrumental in a successful, joint-operations venture in Ghana where the Ghanian navy, Skylight, the UN Office of Drug and Crime, and Global Fishing Watch collaborated to investigate 14 suspicious vessels. The action resulted in the arrest of individuals aboard four ships who were engaging in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.  
 
Closer to his home, to protect the last remaining 75 Southern Resident killer whales in Pacific Northwest waters, Paul’s work advancing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) laid the groundwork for the 2021 Aquatic Mammal Photogrammetry Tool (AMPT).  

In the years since his passing, his team at Vulcan has worked with Dr. Holly Fearnbach and Dr. John Durban who have been using aerial photogrammetry for more than a decade to assess the health of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.  

Before AMPT, images had to be processed manually, by humans, using datasets — which takes anywhere from four to six months to complete. But by using machine learning and an end-user tool, the time needed to process images dramatically decreased to a matter of weeks, or even days. This faster turnaround of health metric data is helping guide quicker management decisions like targeting specific salmon runs or limiting disturbance by vessels with the goal of improving accessibility to Chinook salmon, the whales’ primary source of food. 
 
Aerial image of endangered Southern Resident killer whales in K pod. Copyright and image obtained using a remotely piloted octocopter drone that was flown >100ft altitude during health research by Holly Fearnbach (SR3, SeaLife Response Rehab and Research) and John Durban (SEA, Southall Environmental Associates) under NMFS research permit 19091.
 
Aerial image of endangered Southern Resident killer whales in K pod. Copyright and image obtained using a remotely piloted octocopter drone that was flown >100ft altitude during health research by Holly Fearnbach (SR3, SeaLife Response Rehab and Research) and John Durban (SEA, Southall Environmental Associates) under NMFS research permit 19091.
Paul’s use of technology for good has also had an impact on work being done to address climate change. His legacy can be seen in Vulcan’s partnership with NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). The team is designing climate models to run on the world’s largest supercomputers in high resolution. These technologies are dramatically increasing climate model speed and accuracy by replacing older components 
By providing valuable insights and predictions to help people understand what changes are on the horizon, populations everywhere are better able to prepare, and policy makers are better equipped to make decisions and address challenges for the benefit of people the world over. 

EarthRanger, Skylight, and both the climate change and machine learning teams all continue their global impact to this day, now as part of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle.  
Additional
Stories
MoPOP
Creativity
MoPOP
 
The Museum of Pop Culture opened in 2000 and over the years evolved into a hands-on museum experience celebrating all forms of popular culture and creative expression.
Great Elephant Census
Exploration
Great Elephant
Census
The Great Elephant Census was a massive undertaking to survey the remaining savanna elephants across the African continent. Results of this survey shocked the world into action.
Seattle Seahawks
Pacific Northwest
Seahawks
 
Paul purchased the Seattle Seahawks NFL franchise in 1997, and since then the team has gone on to make three Super Bowl appearances.
Microsoft
Futurist
Microsoft
 
Paul's name is, of course, synonymous with Microsoft, the company he co-founded with his friend Bill Gates, which changed the trajectory of modern computing.
Space
Exploration
Space
 
Paul pursued making space more accessible in ways that would fuel space innovation — including SpaceShipOne, the Allen Telescope Array, and Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane by wingspan.