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Photo: Eshan Venkateswarlu waves while on his field trip with his Life Sciences class working alone the Five Mile Creek in September.



7th Grader Eshan Venkateswarlu Saves Wildlife in Namibia


Ms. Christine Voigt introduced her Pre-AP Life Science class to MicroMapping by involving the students in a real-time project to help spot the wildlife in Namibia, Africa.


Each student was told about the online project, a game that helps to protect rhinos and other wildlife. Players are asked to spot wildlife in digital photos shot by drones which fly over the wildlife preservation.

Patrick Meier, the keynote speaker at Bishop Dunne’s GeoTech conference this past spring, talked about crowdsourcing and MicroMapping to the students and adult audiences when he was here in February. CNN’s John Sutter quotes Meier as saying participating in MicroMapping make him feel like a “digital Indiana Jones or Sherlock Holmes.”


Which brings us back to Eshan Venkateswarlu, who logged over 800 clicks in this MicroMapping program, and was one of the top 10 MicroMappers in the world on this project. The official e-mail came to Eshan from Dr. Meier on Sunday.


Eshan said he enjoyed doing the project in class, adding, “so I just sort of kept doing it. I worked on it Friday during my free time then Saturday morning I started again and did it all day.”


The online project has been compared to the old Where’s Waldo? books, since it uses the same spot-that-one-thing construct, but in this project, players are trying to save rhinos and other wildlife from poaching at a wildlife reserve in Namibia.


The Namibia project gathered 500 volunteers -- "digital rangers," in the group's parlance -- over the weekend to sift through aerial photos looking for wildlife. The goal was to survey more land more quickly than on-the-ground rangers could, and to consequently protect rhinos and the like from poaching or other threats. The online army of volunteers, which included people from dozens of countries, surveyed more than 25,000 aerial photos shot by drones, from Friday to Sunday, according to the group's website. They circled wildlife they found, and uploaded their findings. Volunteers could spend as much or as little time as they wanted.


The clickers are specifically designed so that anyone can volunteer without prior experience or special skills. How did Eshan spot so many? “It was easy – and kind of fun,” he says. He hopes to become a veterinarian one day, like his father, so this project was right up his alley.


A transfer from the Merrywood School, Eshan is such a good student that he skipped a grade and is now in 7th grade. His parents met in India, and he was born in America. He admits that Bishop Dunne is a lot bigger school than he’s used to, but acknowledges he’s getting “the hang of it.”


Eshan used to play guitar but now he practices piano two to three days a week. Will he do more MicroMapping projects? “Maybe,” he said with a smile.


Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26

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