Habitat Info is a technology company based in West Wales which operates globally and specialises in the capture, management, analysis and distribution of spatial data. Our team is comprised: Dr Rob Davies (Director), Andrew Rayner (Software Developer), and various other sub-contractors and interns on an ad hoc basis including Tim Wroblewski (GIS Analyst). The team offers skills and expertise in Geographic Information Systems. We have backgrounds in natural resource management, ecology, geography and computer science. The name of the company comes from our interests in studying the distribution or habitats of both people and wildlife. We like to use our technologies to help find geographic solutions to meet the needs of both the built and the natural environments.
We work extensively in Africa and have conducted numerous large scale projects to help funding agencies and consultancies identify where people are most in need of help in adapting to the harmful effects of climate change. We have mapped climate vulnerability across the Southern African Development Community and at high resolution in various river basins within on behalf OneWorld Sustainable Developments (principally funded by DfiD). We have developed methodologies for the combination of information on climate exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity based on IPCC guidelines. This mapping has achieved great success in promoting consensus and stimulating discussion on the location of the most vulnerable climate hotspots among a diverse array of stakeholders. In 2013-14 we undertook another extensive climate analysis for the Horn of Africa region on behalf the International Livestock Research Institute Technical Committee (principally funded by USAID). This project involved the development of a novel spatial tool for use by IGAD Member States to readily visualise locations in most need of help building resilience to climate and other shocks. The work involved the evolution of a classification system for resilience indicators and an extensive data catalogue for the region.
We take a special interest in livelihoods, land use and agriculture. For the Horn of Africa region where rainfall is less than 1025mm per annum we developed a high resolution population dynamics model of the lower trophic interaction between livestock and vegetation. With remote sensing derived rainfall estimates, we developed a Python script model of the state of balance / imbalance between livestock numbers and the likely available forage for them. This model can accommodate ENSO rainfall patterns when these are indicated in order to alert pastoralists of imminent pasture exhaustion and may be used to recommend livestock reduction or movement. This early warning system is currently being examined in the field and can be readily extended to other semi-arid regions in Africa. We are interested to deploy similar spatial modelling and early warnings to other topics, particularly disease epidemiology and predictions of crime or conflict. At a global scale we have recently been contracted by World Bank to map the accessibility of urban markets to rural communities across 30 countries.
We also work with Local Authorities, conservation agencies and biological records centres in the UK. This has involved the development of novel methodologies to collate and visualise the best available data on biodiversity (protected species, habitats, sites and landscape connectivity) and relay this in an accessible way to Forward Planners. We maintain and support ESRI GIS for the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, provide geodatabase replication across offices and implement web applications on a variety of projects for them e.g. monitoring of alien invasive species. Our best example of web application is the Migratory Soaring Birds Web Tool which we developed for Birdlife International to make available information on sensitive features for wind farm development across the Rift Valley / Red Sea region. The tool processes a large variety of information for buffer searches and relays this rapidly in PDF reports in a variety of languages. We are able to develop web applications in Flex, Java, HTML and most other platforms.
In the course of our Africa work we have compiled a large library of Africa-wide high resolution spatial datasets covering a wide array of environmental and socio-economic subjects. We have special interest in human population growth and the process of agglomeration or movement into cities. We use these datasets creatively to understand where the pressure on the land and natural resources is the greatest and to reconcile the different demands for this land. We have developed novel datasets representing habitat transformation and levels of protection, the latter incorporating estimates of dollars spent per km2 on conservation as a measure of effectiveness. We are beginning to use these as overlays over species distribution models to improve conservation assessments for protected species, notably birds of prey or raptors. In October 2012 we launched a large charity project called the African Raptor Databank which is designed to use sightings of raptors as indicators of ecosystem health across the whole continent. Habitat Info manage this project in partnership with The Peregrine Fund and various stakeholder organisations across the regions of Africa. Through The Peregrine Fund and the ESRI Grant Programme we are able to run an installation of the state-of-the-art ArcGIS Server to manage data coming in and going out. With support from UNEP’s CMS Raptors MoU and Kurt Eckerstrom Consulting Ltd, we have developed the software with a free Android app (African Raptor Observations) available on Google PlayStore to receive data in near real time from anyone, anywhere in Africa. The app uses smartphone GPS to obtain and refine high positional accuracy of the observer and subject for use in distribution modelling, and can do this beyond the reach of cellular networks. We are in the process of developing the same app for the iOS platform. At the top of food chains, and highly visible, raptors are ideal indicator species for monitoring ecosystem health. The project offers identification of transboundary habitat strongholds for entire guilds of wildlife species and ecosystems and a mechanism for monitoring these over the long term.
The ability to send or receive information from smartphones and other devices in the field to/from a web-server in real time or near real time completes our comprehensive spatial data management system. We intend to make full use of this expertise to help agencies get information to the people that need it most as quickly as possible. Our next generation mobile app is being developed to assist law enforcement agencies acquire timeous information on wildlife crimes such as poisoning and poaching. This could readily be adapted to reporting other crimes and/or outbreaks of conflict.