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As Locusts Swarmed East Africa, This Tech Helped Squash Them


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A swarm of locusts.

Anyone with a smartphone can use the new eLocust3m app, which presents photos of locusts at different stages of their life cycles to help users diagnose what they see in the field.

Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A 2020 locust plague in East Africa was mitigated by technology-driven countermeasures, spearheaded by Keith Cressman at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Pennsylvania State University's David Hughes.

The partners created the eLocust3m application for collecting dependable and detailed locust data, using a mobile tracking tool Hughes previously created with the FAO as a template.

The smartphone-enabled app presents photos of locusts at different developmental stages, so users can diagnose what they observe in the field; global positioning system coordinates are automatically recorded, and algorithms double-check photos submitted with each entry.

Wildlife-focused security and logistics company 51 Degrees repurposed anti-poaching aerial surveys to find and kill locust swarms, using a customized version of the EarthRanger program from philanthropic firm Vulcan. The program integrated data from the eLocust programs and the computer loggers on pesticide sprayers.

From The New York Times
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