A trio of Clemson University scientists has unveiled a groundbreaking computational software called “GFlow” that they say will help track wildlife habitat faster, more efficiently and through means they say are superior in quality and scope.
Clemson University postdoctoral fellow Paul Leonard told South Carolina Radio Network that the software can be adapted to track other phenomena in nature as well. “Other analogies or theoretical extensions that the software could be used for to solve different questions like the movement of infectious disease or the spread of wildfires and things like that,” said Leonard.
GFlow will enable scientists to solve ecological problems that span large landscapes. But in addition to helping animals survive and thrive, GFlow can also be used for human health and well-being. For instance, it has the capacity to monitor the spread of the Zika virus by documenting the location of each new case and then predicting its potential spread to previously uninfected areas.
“This software can monitor the flow of any natural phenomenon across space where there is heterogeneous movement that is based on some resistance to this movement,” Leonard said.
Habitat connectivity maps are paired with satellite imagery to display the potential corridors used by animal populations to move between both large and small areas. Billions of bytes of data, including fine-grain satellite photographs and on the ground research, produce geospatial models of the movements of everything from black bears to white salamanders.
These models help federal and state governments, nonprofits and individual landowners redefine their conservation priorities by computationally illustrating the passageways that will need to be preserved for animals to be able to continue to travel.
The software took eight years of research and development.