Technology is enabling conservation scientists to collect and analyze data with an efficiency unimagined just decades ago. Satellite and drone-based remote sensing allow rapid mapping and monitoring of environmental conditions; networked sensors such as camera traps and flow meters provide real-time data about the health and potential threats to important resources.

Data are fundamental to making science-based conservation decisions. By modernizing environmental data capture and analysis and streamlining the delivery of usable information to decision makers, we can unlock new opportunities for transformative change in resource management.

The Conservancy’s team of designers, engineers, and data scientists are continually applying new applications of technology to increase the pace and scale of conservation in California – and beyond.

Science in Action

Marine | Technology | Science

Closing the Abalone Data Gap

Can putting technology in the hands of citizen scientists transform how abalone are managed?

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science

Dynamic Conservation

In an era of rapid global change, how can conservationists provide habitat where and when nature needs it most?

2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Testing a Remote Sensing-Based Interactive System for Monitoring Grazed Conservation Lands

Lawrence D. Ford, H. Scott Butterfield, Pete A. Van Hoorn, Kasey B. Allen, Ethan Inlander, Carrie Schloss, Falk Schuetzenmeister, Miriam Tsalyuk

The Nature Conservancy developed RDMapper, a web-based tool that uses satellite-based productivity estimates, rainfall records, and compliance history to identify easement properties at risk of being below the required level of RDM. TNC successfully used RDMapper in 2015 and 2016 to predict compliance across ~47,000…


2017 | Marine | Technology | Science | Video

Aquaculture by Design, Tomales Bay

Serena Lomonico, Robert Jones, Torrey Johnson, Sarah Newkirk, Sarah Lummis, Kirk Klausmeyer, John Finger, Terry Sawyer, Richard James

Aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important global food source. With this growth comes urgent, unanswered questions about the interactions of aquaculture operations—both positive and negative—and ecosystems. This video describes a collaboration between the Conservancy, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Hog Island Oyster Company aimed at…


2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Novel fine-scale aerial mapping approach quantifies grassland weed cover dynamics and response to management

Carolyn M. Malmstrom, H. Scott Butterfield, Laura Planck, Christopher W. Long, Valerie T. Eviner

Invasive weeds threaten the biodiversity and forage productivity of grasslands worldwide. However, management of these weeds is constrained by the practical difficulty of detecting small-scale infestations across large landscapes and by limits in understanding of landscape-scale invasion dynamics. This study demonstrates the application of a…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Dynamic conservation for migratory species

Mark D. Reynolds, Brian L. Sullivan, Eric Hallstein, Sandra Matsumoto, Steve Kelling, Matthew Merrifield, Daniel Fink, Alison Johnston, Wesley M. Hochachka, Nicholas E. Bruns, Matthew E. Reiter, Sam Veloz, Catherine Hickey, Nathan Elliott, Leslie Martin, John W. Fitzpatrick, Paul Spraycar, Gregory H. Golet, Christopher McColl, Scott A. Morrison

What if instead of buying habitat, conservationists could rent it when and where nature needs it most? The Conservancy is using predictive models of shorebird movements, data from the citizen science program eBird, and NASA satellite wetland habitat data to create a habitat marketplace of…


2017 | Marine | Technology | Video

Big Data and the Deep Blue Sea

The Nature Conservancy, Matt Merrifield

Nearly half of the world depends on seafood for their main source of protein. In the Western and Central Pacific, where 60% of the world’s tuna is caught, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices are threatening marine ecosystems, global seafood supplies and local livelihoods. This…


2016 | Marine | Technology | Science | Video

Sustainable Management of Abalone Fishery in California

The Nature Conservancy, Jono Wilson

California fisheries, like the red abalone fishery, are facing increasing environmental variation and uncertainty due to climate change, complicating the sustainable management of commercial and recreational fisheries and threatening the resilience of fishing communities. To better manage these resources, better data is needed. In this video,…


2016 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Integrating technologies for scalable ecology and conservation

David C. Marvin, Lian Pin Koh, Antony J. Lynam, Serge Wich, Andrew B. Davies, Ramesh Krishnamurthy, Emma Stokes, Ruth Starkey, Gregory P. Asner

Integration of multiple technologies greatly increases the spatial and temporal scales over which ecological patterns and processes can be studied, and threats to protected ecosystems can be identified and mitigated. A range of technology options relevant to ecologists and conservation practitioners are described, including ways…


2016 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Spatially explicit analysis of field inventories for national forest carbon monitoring

David C. Marvin, Gregory P. Asner

Policies that incentivize forest conservation by monetizing forest carbon ultimately depend on the accuracy of carbon stock estimates. Often, these estimates are based on field inventory sampling. In this paper, the authors assessed the accuracy of two common field-plot carbon sampling approaches when creating large-scale…


2016 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Pop-up wetland habitats benefit migrating birds and farmers

Christopher J. McColl , Katie Andrews, Mark Reynolds, Gregory H. Golet

In response to the decline of wetland habitats for migrating and wintering water birds in California, the Conservancy developed a program called BirdReturns that creates “pop-up” wetland habitat where and when birds need them most by enlisting farmers to flood their fields at specific times. This…


2015 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Publications & Reports

Abundance models improve spatial and temporal prioritization of conservation resources

Johnston, A., D. Fink, M. D. Reynolds, W. M. Hochachka, B. L. Sullivan, N. E. Bruns, E. Hallstein, M. S. Merrifield, S. Matsumoto, S. Kelling

Global declines in migratory species in response to accelerating habitat destruction and climate change challenge the scope and scale of conservation efforts. The ability to pinpoint where and when conservation interventions will have the greatest positive population impact is especially important for conservation of migratory…


2014 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

A multi-scale distribution model for non-equilibrium populations suggests resource limitation in an endangered rodent

Tim Bean, Bob Stafford, Scott Butterfield, Justin Brashares

This paper presents a multi-step approach to estimate the realized and potential distribution of the endangered giant kangaroo rat. The authors estimate the potential distribution by modeling suitability using static bioclimatic variables, then examine annual changes in extent at a population-level. The best model indicated the…


2014 | Terrestrial | Technology | Publications & Reports

Remote Sensing and Residual Dry Matter Monitoring

H. Scott Butterfield, Miriam Tsalyuk, Carrie Schloss

The Nature Conservancy in California monitors residual dry matter (RDM) on approximately 300,000 acres of conservation lands. Researchers evaluated whether satellite remote sensing data could be used to monitor RDM, thereby decreasing costs and increasing the overall effectiveness and long-term sustainability of the monitoring…


2014 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Species distribution models of an endangered rodent offer conflicting measures of habitat quality at multiple scales

Tim Bean, Laura Prugh, Bob Stafford, Scott Butterfield, Mike Westphal, Justin Brashares

In this study, the authors developed a suite of species distribution models (SDMs) for the endangered giant kangaroo rat using the machine-learning method Maxent. They compared these models with three measures of habitat quality: survival, abundance and body condition. Species distribution models were not correlated…