RSPB Conservation Efforts Take Flight Thanks To Data Analytics

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Wildlife charity using SAS analytics to track threats and develop conservation programmes across the UK

Big data may be helping to change the way we interact with the world around us, but how much can it do to help the wildlife that shares our planet?

With hundreds of species to track across the UK, ornithological charity the RSPB accrues huge amounts of data every year as it tries to ensure its efforts help as many birds as possible.

And in order to ensure they stay on top of this mountain of data, the charity has teamed up with analytics specialists SAS to develop and create more in-depth research and conservation efforts which should benefit birds around the country.

rspb logoFlying high

“We need to make sense of a variety of large and complex data sets. For example, tracking the movements of kittiwakes and gannets as they forage at sea produces millions of data points,” said Dr. Will Peach, head of research delivery at RSPB.

“Conservation informed by statistical evidence is always more likely to succeed than that based solely on guesswork or anecdote. SAS allows us to explore the data to provide the evidence needed to confidently implement our initiatives.”

So far, the RSPB has implemented SAS’ advanced analytics solutions to combine datasets on yellowhammer and skylark nesting success with pesticide use and agriculture cropping patterns to judge the consequences for the birds.

RSPB also turned to SAS to explore how albatross forage across the Southern Ocean.

With large-scale commercial longline fishing killing tens of thousands of albatrosses a year, the goal was to cut down on the death rate and protect the 17 albatross species currently at risk.

The society took data from tags worn by the birds, merging it with external data sets like sea-surface temperatures and the location of fishing grounds.

“Scientific research is extremely fast-moving and there are now huge volumes of data to analyse,” said Andy Cutler, director of strategy at SAS UK & Ireland.

“SAS is able to provide a means of managing all the data and then apply cutting-edge analytical techniques that deliver valuable insights almost immediately. For example, through analysing previously non-informative data, RSPB is now able to intervene and correct the breeding problems faced by various bird species during treacherous migration journeys.”

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