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Chicago Computer Scientists Develop Tools to Help Ecologists in Kenya


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Kenya trip

Students from University of Illinois at Chicago and Princeton took a trip to Kenya in January to catalog wildlife. Combining computer science and ecology, they learned new ways to gather and visualize data.

Credit: UIC Laboratory for Computational Population Biology

A group of computational ecology students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) recently traveled to the Mpala Research Center in Kenya to conduct experiments using computer technology to collect wildlife data, and took three-dimensional (3D) images and video footage to create Mpala as a virtual space in the United States.

UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory and Laboratory for Computational Population Biology worked on the initiative with Princeton University scientists. The researchers conducted several projects, including studying ants in acacia trees, ant navigation, and a Virtual Mpala project.

In the acacia tree project, the students developed a mobile application that uses global positioning systems to help ecologists plot individual trees. For the ant navigation research, the researchers developed an algorithm so that an ecologist does not have to watch hundreds of hours of video to determine which direction ants are going. As part of the Virtual Mpala project, students documented everything that went on in the research center through 3D images and movies.

From Medill Reports (IL) 
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