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Technologists Hatch "Turtle Sense" System With Ecology and Economy in Mind

Sea turtle nest sensors detect hatchlings on scenic beaches so they're protected and tourists aren't kept at bay for too long

1 min read
Technologists Hatch "Turtle Sense" System With Ecology and Economy in Mind
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A group of volunteer technologists that goes by the name Nerds Without Borders has made some recent progress addressing an interesting environmental problem: protecting sea turtle nests at Cape Hatteras National Seashore on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The National Park Service puts quite a bit of effort into ensuring that sea turtle nests there are not disturbed, but it’s a thorny problem.

You see, the Park Service routinely closes large parts of the beach around turtle nests when the eggs they hold might hatch. That helps hatchlings make the dangerous journey across the beach into the sea. But it prevents people from being able to get to their favorite fishing spots, sometimes for weeks on end. It might even prompt them to vacation elsewhere, which hurts the local economy.

Enter a little creative thinking about how technology could be applied to this problem. Baby sea turtles don’t pop from the sand instantaneously:  It takes several days from when they first break out of their buried eggs for them to climb upward and emerge from the sand. So if you could determine when they first started moving around underground, you’d have a way to leave beaches accessible for all but a few days around the actual hatching time.

That’s the idea behind the “Turtle Sense” project, which is just getting its first concrete results now—and they look very promising. In the video below, the people behind the project explain more about how the turtle-hatch-warning system works.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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