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Digital twin technology: using dynamic data to protect our environment

Sameera Casmod |
17 February 2024 | 07:00 a.m. SAST
1 minute read

Image: Nature First

In the face of escalating biodiversity loss, scientists are turning to innovative solutions to monitor and protect endangered species and ecosystems. The use of digital twin models is one such solution that is gaining traction.

Originally popularised in engineering and construction, it is now making waves in the field of nature conservation.

Digital twin technology is used to create digital models of people, animals, objects or processes in the real world.

“Digital twin modelling is used for real-time monitoring. You take observations from the natural world and use those to create a model, essentially a digital copy of the real world that behaves in the same way,” Koen de Koning, a scientist at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands explained.

De Koning is at the forefront of this approach, having initiated the idea of applying digital twin technology in nature conservation and developed the first digital twin for biodiversity, the Crane Radar.

The Crane Radar is a model used to track crane migrations by mimicking their behaviour in the real world.

“You program that model in such a way that the cranes in your model behave exactly as they do in the real world,” De Koning said.

Regarding the results of tracking crane migrations, de Koning discussed the development of an interactive web application.

“One of the results is that we’ve created an interactive app where you can follow the crane migration live.” He shared a personal success story.

“Last migration, I managed to intercept a group of cranes that I already saw in the app. It was predicted by my digital twin, and indeed, they were flying exactly over the area as I predicted.”

Looking ahead, de Koning discussed the broader applications of digital twin technology.

“We’re developing more than one digital twin, not just the crane radar.” He outlined plans to monitor human-wildlife conflicts and biodiversity trends globally. “We’re thinking of applying digital twin technology to monitor elephant populations, movements of elephants, and international policy-making to inform policymakers on how to act on certain trends that we see in nature.”

The integration of digital twin technology into conservation practices heralds a new era of data-driven conservationism.

Listen to the full interview on Your World Today with Mufti Yusuf Moosagie here.


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