Articles

Lunch Hour Lectures on Tour – 24 May 2018

October 9, 2019


Welcome to the Zoological Society
of London. Thank you very much
for joining us today for the UCL Lunch Hour talks. I’m Nathalie Pettorelli. I work
at the Zoological Society of London in the Institute, which is the
research department of the society. It’s my absolute pleasure to introduce
the two speakers today. Primarily, since I have known them
since I put my first foot in the UK. They were both working at the Society
when I joined in 2006. Then deserted and left us
and went straight into UCL. The good thing is we have events
like this so we can bring them back, catch up and have a laugh about
all the things we used to do that we don’t do anymore of course. Two speakers, Dr Seirian Sumner, who is a reader
in behavioural ecology and Professor Kate Jones. Kate Jones, an outstanding professor
at UCL. Also doing some really cool work
in conservation. The first speaker, Seirian, works, as you might see, on wasps. She is absolutely in love with insects. She has been trying to get me
into loving them for years. We worked together
on Soapbox Science. Seirian’s work is primarily… at least when I started to chat with her
about her work, was about behavioural ecology, trying to understand
what underpins sociality from a behavioural point of view and looking at that in wasps, because those amazing set of species that have very different types
of social levels, which allow you to test a number
of hypotheses as to what drives them
to be more or less social. She has expanded the scope
of her research to go from traditional behavioural
ecology with the boots and spending hours
looking at them, going into more genomic analysis. Looking at a lot of wasps all over the Tropics, primarily. She has had a number of successes, both in science, but also in science
communication. She will tell you more about this.
Please welcome Seirian. Thank you very much Nathalie,
that’s a really kind introduction. I do like to use my floor
so I’m just clearing my dance space before I commence. It’s a great pleasure to be here today. I spent ten years working next door
in the Institute of Zoology. It’s incredibly nostalgic coming back
to ZSL to talk about my work. I am on a personal mission to challenge the public’s perception
of wasps. I do believe they are the neglected
darlings of the insect world. I hope that in the course
of the next half hour, I will be able to persuade you guys… Let’s have a show of hands,
who likes wasps? You’re a really biased audience! For those of you who dislike wasps, I hope that by the end of this talk I might at least have given you
a little bit of persuasion that they are at least useful. You may not love wasps by the end, but you might respect them
a little bit more. One of the reasons why wasps
are so disliked is of course, this, the sting. Hands up who has been stung by a wasp. Everyone has been stung by a wasp. It’s great fun. It’s a common myth that bees when they sting you
it’s self-sacrificing, and it rips out their innards
and their sting is left in you, and you don’t mind being stung by them because they’ve killed themselves
to defend their colony, but actually it’s only honeybees that
die when they sting you. It’s only that one species
of bee that does that. All the other bees
do the same thing as wasps. They can keep on stinging you. Just remember that. Bees are not necessarily kinder
and more self-sacrificing than wasps. It might soften the blow a bit
to know that these stings in wasps were originally part of the egg-laying
machinery of the insect. In a related group,
the parasitoid wasps, these have modified that sting
into a big, long egg-laying shaft called the ovipositor. Impress your friends at home
with that word. It’s basically a modified
egg-laying machine. They use it to defend themselves. Because of this,
it has got this reputation, of being the most disliked,
pointless, annoying insect or animal, perhaps the organism, on the entire planet. You only have to look
to the internet for affirmation of this. If you google wasps, it’s not long before you come up
with some delightful images that conjure up this thought
that wasps are the gangsters of the insect world. They are the thugs. They are worth nothing, they are there
to cause us pain and anguish. Indeed, they’ve inspired
many a horror movie. My personal favourite
is The Wasp Woman, which is a lovely 1960’s B-movie, where this woman
is jilted by her boyfriend and to get revenge, she starts to take
this wasp venom that makes her look
evermore beautiful. She takes too much of it and she becomes a wasp by night. By day, she’s a beautiful,
submissive woman, but at night,
she’s a fearsome wasp woman and she devours men. I believe that’s a pile of bones
she’s standing on. That’s a fun movie,
I recommend you have a look at it. As you can see, wasps have inspired all sorts of crazy but gruesome parts
of our popular culture. I am, like many people in this room,
fond of using social media. Recently, I did a little poll
of my social media followers on Facebook and on Twitter to find out if this truly was
the perception the public have of wasps. This might be bias, because we know
we live in social media bubbles. We all learnt about that
through Brexit. But this is a Worldle, which summarises
how my followers, my social media interactants, think or describe a wasp. I asked them to give me a word
they would use to describe wasps. This is a quantitative
scientific representation of the data. The larger the word, the more people
used that word to describe wasps. They are annoying,
they are persistent, stingy, they are stripy, horrible, scary, but there’s a few friends in there
because they also say fascinating, intriguing and beautiful. I think this is a pretty good
representation of what the public think about wasps. I’m here today to try
and reorganise those words, take away the nasty ones
and put some informative useful words which are backed by the science to convince you that wasps
are important, useful and should be much more adored. There’s four key words I want you
to take home today about wasps. Wasps are diverse, sophisticated, phenomenal and essential. I’m going to take you on a journey now
to give you some evidence for why those words
should be used to describe wasps. First of all,
they are incredibly diverse. You’re sitting there,
thinking what is she talking about. A wasp is a wasp.
It’s this thing here. It’s the yellow thing that gets in
my beer in the summer and ruins our family picnics. It’s the hornet. That big scary thing that’s going to
invade the entire country. Actually, that’s not true. This is just a few number of species
of the wasp. They are the most social wasps. They are the most impressive colonies
with the largest numbers so that’s why you notice them more, but it might surprise you,
this is my equation. This is the only equation
you need to take home. It might surprise you to know that the number of wasp species, vastly outweighs the number
of bees and ants. Bit of audience participation time. Who would like to hazard a guess
on how many species of ant there are? Give it a go! AUDIENCE: 1,000. A thousand? Any advance on 1,000? AUDIENCE: 15,000. 15,000?
Kate knows too much! There are actually 11,000,
Professor Jones. There are 11,000 species of ants
that are described. How many species of bees are there? AUDIENCE: 2,000. Two? Pardon? 2,000?
Any advance on 2,000? There are 22,000 species of bees. Isn’t that incredible? Who knew there were so many
bees and ants? Aren’t they amazing? Yeah, but how many species of wasps? Tell me. AUDIENCE: 33,000. Any advance on 33,000? Try doubling it. AUDIENCE: 60,000. And a bit more! AUDIENCE: 83,000. 150,000 described species of wasp. There’s probably
several hundred thousand more undescribed species of wasp. Wasps are incredibly diverse, much more so than the bees
and the ants put together. Just to really test your understanding
of wasps, we’re going to play a game. It’s called wasp or not. What you have to do is shout out
‘wasp’ or ‘not’. Shall we have a go?
‘Wasp’ first. AUDIENCE: Wasp! Not! As I show a slide,
I want you to shout ‘Wasp’ or ‘Not’. Don’t worry about the people
around you. This is about you.
Be confident. Okay. AUDIENCE: Wasp. Yes, this is a tropical hornet. It is a wasp sitting on wasp nest,
which is not its nest. It’s eating the nest of another wasp. Can we dim the light slightly? AUDIENCE: Wasp. Yep. This is the largest wasp
in the world. It’s the Giant Asian Hornet. It’s 7 cm long. It can fly 60 mph. If you get stung,
it’s got nine types of venom, you are quite likely to die. You think Yellowjackets
are a problem at picnics. This guy…
You don’t want to go near them. AUDIENCE: Wasp.
Not. Who said not? What is it? It’s fuzzy.
It’s a bee. Actually wasps can be hairy too. Any advance on a bee?
It’s not a bee. It’s not a wasp. It’s a moth!
Exactly. It’s mimicking a wasp. Isn’t that cool? Isn’t that amazing? What’s this? Obviously this is a spider. I was talking about this one.
What’s this? AUDIENCE: Wasp. It is a wasp. It’s a digger wasp.
It’s a solitary wasp. You get these in the UK. They are pompilids,
spider-eating wasps. You can tell a spider-eating wasp
because it has really curly antennae. They’re very beautiful. Again, they have a whopping sting. They have to paralyse
big things like that. What about these? Is this a wasp? This is a parasitoid wasp.
It is a wasp. It’s not a stinging wasp. It’s the one with the ovipositor, that
has that long tube to lay eggs with. What’s this? Wasp/not? Not? Hands up ‘not’. Not. You’re wrong.
It’s a wasp. It’s actually called a velvet ant
to confuse you even more. It is a wasp. It’s a rare example of a wasp
that has no wings. It preys on honeybees. It paralyses them
with its fabulous sting. It digs a hole,
puts the bee in a hole, lays an egg,
seals it up and lets the egg hatch out and eat
the honeybee from the inside out. What’s that? AUDIENCE: Wasp. It’s a mantid. It’s not a wasp! And these? AUDIENCE: Wasp. They are wasps.
Lots of people say they are bees, because they have cute
little round heads. This is called
another confusing common name, it’s called a bee wolf. It’s even more confusing. It also hunts bees. What about these? That’s another velvet ant.
What about this one? What’s this? Beetle?
That’s a favourite. It’s not a beetle.
It’s a wasp! This is Megalara.
It’s a male wasp. It has these enormous mandibles, and it’s a rare example
of sexual selection for males to fight. They have these big mandibles to fight
over access to females. And these?
Wasps? They are wasps.
These are some of the largest wasps. You can see that’s 1 cm.
They are huge. This is the smallest wasp.
It’s called a fairy wasp. Isn’t that cute? You see, they’re darlings. I told you, they’re really darlings. Just to round that home, wasps are incredibly diverse. They are beautiful. They show such an array of morphologies and exquisite behaviours. They are truly incredible. Don’t ever think a wasp is just that
pesky Yellowjacket at your picnic. Let’s move on
to the sophistication of wasps. We think human societies
are amongst the most sophisticated. Actually, you’re wrong. Although Adam Smith is famous,
in the 1700s, for revolutionising the way
that our factories work, in creating factory production lines, so people specialise in different tasks. It makes the output of the factory
much more productive, but actually wasps did this 250 million
years before we thought about it. One of the really fun things
about wasps… The reason I like watching wasps
is it’s like watching a soap opera. This is a colony
of one of my favourite wasps. It’s called polistes canadensis. We watch these a lot
in Panama. We recently sequenced the genome
of these insects. That was the first wasp genome
to be sequenced. You can see they’ve got little number
tags on their backs. We’re able to follow these wasps
from the minute they emerge as adults. The minute they are born, we can follow them
throughout their entire life. We can manipulate them. We can take some wasps away
and see what happens. It’s just like EastEnders. You get to play around
with the script and see who responds
and what happens next. Wasps are truly the soap opera
glamour ladies of the insect world. One of things I’m interested in is looking at the genes that underpin
these different behaviours within these simple societies. We look at their DNA
and their gene expression. We look at the brains. One of the great things
about the wasps I work on is they are nice big wasps. Big wasps means big heads. Big heads means big brains. Big brains means lots of material for us to mash up their brains and look at the genes
that are expressed in those individual brains
of individual insects. You can’t do that with humans. You can’t mash up your brains and find
out why you’re behaving aggressively and you’re being submissive. We can do it with wasps. By doing these manipulations
in the field, taking our insects home to the lab, looking at the genes
that underpin those behaviours, we can start to build a map
from the genes to the behaviours to understand how genes
interact with the environment, the social environment, to produce these behaviours. One thing that has come out of this sort
of work on bees, wasps and ants, by looking at behaviour
and connecting genes to behaviours, is that the worker caste
in these social societies, much like your worker honeybee, who doesn’t have a chance
of being a reproductive. She’s working her guts out
for the colony, she’s good at passing on her genes through the relatives
she’s helping raise. The workers are the evolutionary
innovation. They’re the clever ones. Like any good factory
in human society, its product depends heavily
on the workforce. A good innovative workforce. It’s exactly the same in social insects. The third word I’d like you to take home
about wasps today is that they are phenomenal. This is a phenomenal wasp nest. This is a polistes paper wasp, that you’ll see if you go on holiday
to the continent. It’s multi-coloured for a reason. This nest has been reared
in the lab. You can give them different types
of paper, different coloured paper, and they will build a nest
that’s multi-coloured. These are paper wasps. Most wasps, the Yellowjacket wasp
that you know so well, also build their nest
out of paper. They’ll take plant material,
they’ll chew it up, and they will smooth it out
into the most intricate, light but strong
nesting material. There is a theory that we might even
have wasps to thank for the origin of paper that has
transformed our own societies. The story goes that a Chinese eunuch
was sitting under a tree. 2,000 years ago. He happened to see this wasp,
just like one of these, chewing a bit of bark
off the tree. Chewing it up in its mandibles and then spreading it out
into this beautiful paper. He thought this was
a good idea. I’m going to do that. Therein was born paper. Wasps have gone much further
than we have with our boring flat paper. These are all different types
of wasp nest that are built out of paper. They are incredible architects. The architecture of the nest can tell us about the evolution
of sociality. Not all wasps are highly social
like your Yellowjacket wasp, which is effectively just like a
honeybee, but it’s a wasp. Many wasps are solitary. They live alone. They will just dig a hole
and lay their egg, seal it up and say bye-bye,
there’s no parental care. What I’m really interested in, is how we get to these
really complex societies, which are just like
the honeybee colonies. The wasps are second-to-none in providing us with these snapshots in evolutionary time. I travel around the world seeking out wasps that represent these different steps on the ladder of social evolution. It’s an incredible opportunity. It’s like watching evolution in action. I get to go to some nice places as well. One of the key defining features
of sociality is that workers give up
the chance to reproduce in order to help raise relatives. That’s one of the founding
understandings of our understanding of sociality. However what we found, by putting oyster card
equivalents on our wasps to radio tag them, was not all wasps are faithful. In fact, they often spend time
on different nests. We’re using behaviour experiments
in the field and also genetic methods in the lab to understand why wasps might not be
as faithful as theory predicts. Okay, so the final take home
for why wasps are important and why they really are
the darlings of the insect world. It’s this word here,
because they are essential. Everybody thinks of bees
being the epitome of this service
that insects give to us. The bees are so important
in pollination. It’s absolutely true,
I’m not disputing that. What I’m going to try
and convince you now is that wasps are equally important. Wasps are the natural pest-controllers. They eat the insect pests that you hate. They eat the caterpillars
that riddle your lettuces. They eat the aphids that plague
your tomato plants. Without wasps, your garden
would be inundated with insects. One of the really good things
about wasps is that they’re generalists. They’re not fussy about
what kind of insect they eat. This is a food web network that we’ve
put together from the literature. These are the three main groups
of social wasps. The predatory power of wasps is so much greater for the social wasps
than the solitary because a single colony can have
tens of thousands of workers. All of whom are going out
into your garden and removing those pests
that you don’t want. Around the top here are the different groups
of arthropod prey that those social wasps
predate on. The larger the circle indicates
the more representation of that group in these wasps’ diets. The main groups are the lepidoptera. Those are the caterpillars. The caterpillars.
Not the beautiful butterflies. The diptera.
Those are the flies. They’re really good for controlling
fly populations. Other hymenoptera,
those little bees, ants and wasps, they will be eating all of those. The hemipterans. The bugs you don’t want
on your plants in the garden. They do some cool stuff to control. It’s not just eating these insects
that they do. They also mess with their brains. This lovely wasp here
injects neurotoxins into the brain of the cockroach, I hate cockroaches, they’re even worse than wasps,
aren’t they, let’s face it. Anyway, it penetrates the brain and it messes with the brains
of these cockroaches and they become these zombies. Then this tiny wasp will carry
this huge cockroach to its nest, then let its babies feed off it,
like a living larder. It’s fabulous stuff. Wasps actually do eat anything. We’ve known this for hundreds of years.
This drawing dates back to the 1900s. It is clearly a wasp eating a fly. You knew that, right? We’ve known that wasps
eat anything. But we haven’t capitalised on that. We capitalise on the fact that
bees pollinate our crops. We haven’t capitalised on the fact that
wasps are our natural pest-controllers. They could reduce the amount
of pesticide we have to use. There are over 30,00 species
of predatory wasp. The ones that actually go
and catch your aphids. They’re generalist in their diet. Any wasps in your garden
will control any pests you’ve got. They present very little threat
to those other insect populations because they’re not specialist, so they’re not going to wipe out
an entire set of insects. The million dollar question
is how much do wasps eat? Actually, the reality is that
we don’t know. They’re very understudied. Most of the studies
on the Yellowjacket wasps come from New Zealand, where they are an invasive species. They form extraordinarily
large colonies there. This is probably an over-representation
of what they eat. Scientists have looked to see how much mass of prey
a wasp colony will remove per season. It’s estimated to be up to 23kg. That’s a lot of aphids. By my calculations, that’s about 250,000 aphids. From a single colony. This is a very conservative estimate. That’s a lot of aphids
in your garden. Would you like to have
250,000 aphids in your garden? Would you rather have
a wasps nest? I’m not going to ask you that! Wasps are really important
as bio-controllers. They’re generalists. Because they’re social,
they recruit. They can recruit other workers
to come and find those aphids, so the same tomato plant. They eat caterpillars and flies,
which are the key pests. Not only of your garden,
but also of crops. Wasps are asking for us
to learn more about them so that we can better manage them as potential bio-control agents. Enough about
their carnivorous behaviour, wasps are also important pollinators. They visit flowers. Because the adult wasps
don’t care two hoots about the prey. They catch an insect prey,
but they don’t eat it. They take it back to their nest and feed it to the larvae. It’s the larvae
who are the carnivores. The adult wasps
are actually frugivores. They need sugar,
which they get from plants. Wasps are generalist pollinators. They visit those plants. We’ve discovered that there are
over 650 species of plant that wasps have been observed visiting, coming from a huge range
of plant families. Unlike bees,
they are generalists. In many ways, they are
complementary to bees. Bees often are very specific to the type
of plant they will pollinate. Wasps don’t care,
they’ll go anywhere. The other good thing about wasps
is they like living in horrible places. Some of my top field sites have been
sewage works, a leprosy hospital in Panama, abandoned buildings
with gunshots on the wall. They love these abandoned places
that no-one else wants to go. Wastelands, urban environments
that are just left to ruin. The bees won’t like them. They’re fussy,
they like the nice pretty flowers. The wasps don’t care. They’ll go in
and they’ll pollinate anything. They’re just not fussy. They’re like the back-up pollinators. When the habitat is not pristine enough
for a bee, the wasps will step up
to the cause. This is the inside of a wasp nest. What do you see? What’s this?
This is an egg. It’s a bit fuzzy, isn’t it? This is actually a larva,
can you see that? The one at the top is a larva
who’s spun her cocoon into a pupa. I look at that as a field biologist and think, that’s a wasp nest
with a larva, couple of eggs and a pupa. If you’re one of 2.5 million people
in the world who eat insects, this means food to you. Entomophagy, the eating of insects
as a source of protein is something we need to catch onto
here in the West. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, eating insect is a large part
of these people’s diets. They’re onto a good thing here. Insects, and particularly wasp larvae,
are very high in protein content and very low in fat. They’re really good for you. Moreover, they’re much more sustainable
to harvest and to farm. In fact, the Japanese love them so much that they’ve made these cookies
with chocolate larvae popping out. Isn’t that cute? It’s a new thing in Japan now. In the last 30 years or so, local families in rural areas have
started farming wasps. This is a cultural shift. It’s not a historic thing
that’s from the past. It’s something they’ve realised
is really valuable. Whole families will sit there harvesting
the larvae out of their family wasp nest at the end of the season. The final question
I’d like to put to you is given that I’ve now, hopefully, convinced you that wasps
are really important, really valuable,
important to our ecosystem, important potentially
to our nutritional needs, what would a world without wasps
look like? There’s a famous quote
by I’m not quite sure who, it’s not Einstein, that when the bees disappear, man only has four years left. I think we need a similar quote
for the wasp. We’re going to make it evidence-based. The problem is, it’s not just you guys
who hate wasps. It’s the scientists as well. I’m a rarity in that
I actually like wasps and I study them. This is graph where I’ve calculated
the number of papers that scientists have produced
over the last 30 years on bees, wasps and ants. The blue line is the ants. The cumulative sum over time. This is the bees
and these are the wasps. You can see the wasp is at the bottom.
You might think it’s not that different. Until you look
at the representation of the species. The ants represent only 6%
of the bees, wasps and ants together. Yet almost half the scientific papers
on these three groups are on ants. Bees have received a lot of attention
recently for obvious reasons. They only represent 11% of the bees,
wasps and ants in terms of species. Yet 32% of the publication output
of these scientists is on bees. Wasps, on the other hand, represent 83% of the species
among the bees, wasps and ants. Yet only 21% of these papers
are on wasps. The scientific community
are not providing us with the studies that we need in order to better understand the
ecological and economic value of wasps. Just to finish, I’m going to give you
a plug for a citizen science project that I started last year with Adam Hart
at the University of Gloucestershire. It’s called the Big Wasp Survey.
Did anyone here take part? Yay! A few people, excellent. We wanted to harness the power
of the public to help us learn more
about UK wasps. We asked people to put these lovely beer
traps out in their garden around about August bank holiday time, leave it out there for a week,
and then collect the contents and send them to us at UCL. Beer is a great attractant
for social wasps and it doesn’t attract other insects
quite so much. We were amazed that people
wanted to do this. In fact, it was a bit of a whim. Astonishingly, we had far too many
people take part. People were sending picture their kids
had drawn of wasps. It was wasp crazy, it was amazing. 2,500 people signed up. We had 1,200 people
send in their results. Our freezers in UCL
were literally bursting. Peggy, give us a wave. Peggy, sitting in the middle, had the joyous task of sorting out
all these slightly decayed wasps from these packages
that had been sent in. We also managed to get
lots of volunteers to come and help us sort
these thousands of insects. This is one from Peggy’s thesis. Sorry Peggy, I’ve stolen it there. This is a map from where people
in the UK provided us with data. You can see that people
all over the country have sent in their wasp samples. This is incredibly valuable. It will tell us which species of wasp
are where in the UK. We can better understand the ecological
niches that these wasps occupy and how they’re responding
to different kinds of land use. Please do get involved
in August this year. This is my toddler
with his beer trap. Even children can do this,
it’s very safe. Put out your trap in your garden. Go to our website and find out more
about how to do that. I would hope that if I were to commission
a Wordle of this room on words that you might use
as audience members to describe wasps
after this talk, I hope that you might describe wasps
as fascinating, of having ecological-value, of being phenomenal, of being essential, useful,
diverse, misunderstood, but most importantly that they are
an important source of natural capital. This is why wasps are the neglected
darlings of the natural world. Thank you very much. Thank you very much Seirian. Now you know,
don’t approach this woman and tell her something negative
about wasps. I wouldn’t! I know some of you will have
a question for Seirian. Please bear with us because the idea
is to go through both talks and then have the two experts here
and take your questions. The second speaker I’d like to introduce
is Professor Kate Jones. I like the contrast between
those two speakers. As you have seen,
Seirian is very into wasps and specialises in what
she is interested in. Kate, you could get her interested
in more or less anything as long as the question
gets her interested. She’s a bit of a jack of all trades. Although she does have
quite a bit of a love for bats. She has been working with
the Bats Trust for many years. I think the first time I talked about
science with Kate was about bats. Kate is interested
in the tree of life in general in various conservation issues. She has been doing a lot of work
on representation of species, some form of taxonomies. What really gets her nowadays
is technology and how to advance conservation by making use of all the data
and all the development and all the technology that could get us
to understand better the natural world and therefore conserve it better. You will get a full-on presentation
of what I mean by this and what really gets her interested. Please help me welcome Kate now. Thank you very much
for that introduction. Thanks for that introduction. It’s a pleasure to be back at ZSL for the Lunch Hour Lectures on Tour. As Nathalie was saying, I used to work here
as well as Seirian and I have never left really. I’ve got an honorary appointment here. It just shows the pull of this place. It’s very special and strong. As Nathalie said, I’ve been really
interested in trying to understand what’s happening to biodiversity and what are the trends and what are our impacts on nature? What are humans doing to biodiversity? Alongside that, there’s been
an absolute revolution in the amount of technologies
and tools that are available to understand these trends. I’ve been absolutely fascinated
by these and trying to develop those into
things that we can use to start to monitor nature
in a much better way. The reason for monitoring nature
is to understand our impacts and then manage nature better. I should say, manage our impacts
on nature better, so that we can conserve species better. The problem really,
and this is the title of the talk, is there’s a lot of fear around
technology at the moment. Especially machine learning
and artificial intelligence. Some of these tools
use artificial intelligence to monitor species
and populations. I guess the question is
should we be worried about that? Should we be worried that robots
will take our conservation jobs? Maybe we could do away with the
Institute of Zoology and have machine learning robots
instead. There’s some controversies around that. I’m going to take you through
some of the technologies which have been developed recently, some machine learning and artificial
intelligence tools we can use, with a specific focus on my own work, which is on acoustics. Let me just start by showing you
what state the planet is in. The reason why there’s a problem
with our world nature and degradation of natural ecosystems is because there’s a load of us. This is the human population. In 1760, where this graph is starting, populations of humans
were fairly stable. You had quite a huge child mortality
which kept our numbers down. And our shorter life spans. Then, around 1980
there was peak baby. There were more babies than there ever
were ever in the history of our species. This red line here is the growth rate
of the human population. The blue one is the number of humans. Our growth rate
is fortunately coming down a bit. Our populations are supposed
to level off around 2100. That means there’s a huge number
of pressures on our environment, causing widespread conversion
of our land and degradation of our natural
ecosystems. This isn’t a depressing talk.
It’s a depressing start, it’ll get better! This is another graph
that I’ve pulled out just to summarise our impact
on the planet. In this far left graph, you’ve got the
global land surface of the planet. Fine. Where do you do the…? Hooray! We’ve got the global land surface here, just a measure
of what that is divided into. You can’t quite see that, but 30% is land
and the rest is ocean. This 30% of land,
three-quarters is habitable and half of the habitable land
is used to make stuff for us, or us. That is quite scary. Shockingly about three-quarters
of the agricultural land is used to make meat
for us to eat. Perhaps not the best use
of resources there. This is just showing you a kind of sum of how much humans
have appropriated in terms of resources of the planet’s biomass. This is how much productivity
we have on the planet in terms of green. This is just showing you
how much productivity we’re using instead of it being
natural ecosystems. You’ve got areas of the planet, which are almost using 100%
of the planet’s productivity which is really scary. What implications has that
on our ecosystems and our natural environment? These are photographs of endangered species across the planet and we’re seeing a precipitous loss
in biodiversity all around us. If you have a chance,
do look at this project, because Joel is trying to photograph
all endangered species before they go extinct. He’s got a fantastic website
if you want to have a look. This is just some of the images
from that. We’re losing biodiversity. We’re degrading
our natural ecosystems. Does that matter? I think that’s a really good question.
Does it matter? I think the work at ZSL and UCL
and across the world has been showing that it really does. This is just a conceptual model,
if you like, of the argument
for why ecosystems matter. There are lots of them, this is just one
particular one I’m showing you as an example. You’ve got all of life here
in this green box. It’s partitioned up into ecosystems, like a forest or a pond
or your park next door to your house. There are some ecosystem services
which those areas provide. Those things could be pollination. The goods that are produced
are the crops that we eat. These have an impact
on our human health and wellbeing. When Seirian was talking about wasps
and their pollination ability and also their pest control ability, they’re classed as ecosystem services and producing goods for us. This is quite
an anthropogenic-centric view of why nature is good
and we should not destroy it. That is controversial. Just see any article
by George Monbiot. I think this is a useful way
to communicate to policy makers how important biodiversity
and ecosystem services are to us in terms of our health
and our wellbeing. If biodiversity is so important, it’s shocking that we are so terrible
at monitoring it. We are absolutely terrible
at doing that. I’ve got climate modellers envy. The climate modellers
have stations all across the world monitoring weather and rainfall
and temperature, all the time. They have satellites
doing the same thing. They produce these amazing models. They have modelling teams
all around the world. They’ve got a UN commission
to look at these models, to make recommendations
to the planet about why climate is increasing, what to do about it, what our legal frameworks are, and for biodiversity,
we’ve got hardly anything like that. The climate modellers
have got lots of scenarios in terms of policy instruments to change governmental policies. Really, biodiversity is severely lacking
in this regard. Considering its importance , it’s a real shock that we don’t have
something like that. As we’ve been going on, there’s been this revolution,
as I said, in sensing technology and algorithms to understand
our natural environment. Whether we could use those tools to create platforms which are much
smarter in monitoring our ecosystems is something I’m really interested in. I do a lot of work with engineers. I was talking to them about this idea of trying to monitor the planet
in a better way. They talked about industry 4.0. I had no idea what they were saying. What are those words?
I don’t understand. This is a diagram
I pulled off the web. If you have a look on Wikipedia, you’ll find something
called industry 4.0. Amazon, for example,
would think about industry 4.0. This is a diagram which is describing
the transition between industry 1.0
to industry 4.0. Industry 1.0 was the satanic mills
of the north, creating huge amounts of productivity through mechanisation and steam energy. Those were mass production of goods and services. Industry 2.0 is mass production,
assembly lines, think of a Ford factory. Then you’ve got something
like industry 3.0, which is automation, computers
and electronics. Think of a Samsung factory
or a Toyota car plant with all those robots. You know those videos
of robots doing stuff. Then we’ve got this mythical 4.0. 4.0 over here. You have cyber physical systems. What are those? Internet of things. Networks. Cyber physical systems
are not just computers. Robots doing stuff,
putting a bolt on a car. They are learning how to build
the bolt on a car, react to other things
that are happening, to take decisions
and change how they’re doing that. Those are cyber physical systems in terms of they are reacting
to the environment, they are learning
with artificial intelligence, and then doing something else that’s
different to maximise your production. Amazon has this already
in their factories. If you’re wondering why
you order something and it’s delivered the same day. It’s because they have this system
in place. In some factories anyway. I’m interested in how we can put
conservation into that framing. If I think about conservation, it’s probably barely passed 1.0,
maybe 2.0 in this system. Industry 1.0 and 2.0
are all about mechanisation or using tools like mist nets
to catch birds or bats. It’s looking at using camera traps
to find out what is in a forest or sensors. Sometimes we use,
as Seirian was talking about, citizen science to mass produce
our recordings and sensing across the environment. Perhaps we’re at 1.0
and for some things maybe 2.0. This is an example
of conservation 2.0. I had to put bats in here somewhere. This is a monitoring trend
from the Bat Conservation Trust, which they do every year using a big citizen science survey
across the country to produce these trends
in population change with time. Perhaps we’re at 1.0, maybe 2.0. Could we be at 3.0 and 4.0? 4.0? Maybe it’s too crazy to think
about how we could be there. Perhaps that’s the way we will really
start to monitor and understand what our systems are. Instead of just monitoring it, we could then take decisions about
what we need to change automatically and then optimise the system for both
people and our natural ecosystems. I’m just going to go through some of the
ways we could become more 3.0 and 4.0 and end with some examples
from my own work, which have gone through
this thought process. This is the first kind of revolution
which has been going on, with camera traps. These are cameras that you put into
forests or back gardens, and they flash when an animal goes past and you can take a picture or video,
whatever you want. This is an image that was taken from a colleague’s project in Liberia
in 2011. He put camera traps
all over the forest in Liberia and they found a pygmy hippo. This was the first time
this had been found in Liberia. The president was so excited about this that she the entire area up
as a nature reserve. These images are incredibly powerful and have an incredible power
to change people’s minds and impressions of what’s there. These camera traps
and the camera trapping system has opened up new records of species and our understanding
of what is around. It’s not just Liberia
and foreign places. This is Muswell Hill,
my back garden. I’d just planted that, so it was
annoying I had a whole family of foxes
in my garden, which they took great pleasure
in tearing up. But they were very cute,
so that was good. This can happen anywhere. You can put them out
and have a look. It’s got a real power of engagement
as well. This is completely engaging. I had no idea this was going on. I was wondering why the cats
were looking a bit shifty. Not just Muswell Hill, or in terrestrial landscapes, there’s Dave Curnick,
one of my PhD students. He was setting up cameras
on the bottom of the seabed and also videos of coral reefs. You can put these things into areas which you couldn’t usually monitor
with anything else. These are big marine reserves, which are difficult to monitor because the typical way of monitoring ecosystems
in marine systems is to fish them. You look at the fish stocks. Of course, you can’t do that
in marine protected areas. We need other sensors in order to
monitor those things. There’s been a huge revolution
in the power, the complexity and the usability
of these sensors. It’s just extraordinary. The other big revolution is in things
that you put on animals. These are tags that you can put on. In your phone,
you’ve got an accelerometer which helps you play games. Not that you’d play games
on your phone! It gives you a way to understand
how you’re moving, if you’re going up and down
or to the side and you can put those types of sensors
into collars or movement tags. These can also have a GPS so they can
connect to satellite information. It gives you lots of information
about what the animal is doing. For example, this is an image
from one of my favourite programs, Horizon 2013. They all went into
an Oxfordshire village and set up Cat Central. They got all the cat owners of the
village to come round and they all got a little collar with
a GoPro camera and an accelerometer. They put them on the cats
and let them go. This guy didn’t do anything all day,
just sat on the couch and ate food. Actually, he was travelling
about 20km a night and raiding lots of other food from
everybody else’s house in the village and picking lots of fights. This technology has really
revolutionised our understanding of animal behaviour. Using this, instead of just monitoring
with binoculars or sitting there for hours, you can put these tags on and get
much finer grain detail of the data. For example,
these are three data channels you get from the accelerometer tag. They show pitch, side-to-side movement
and acceleration. You can start to ground truth these bands of information
with behaviours. This is upright, horizontal,
could be feeding, or caring for young
or whatever, but you can translate
these massive amounts of information you get from these sensors
into behaviours. The next thing, this is going on
to my own research, is on acoustic sensing. I’ve been interested
in how we use acoustics to monitor our environment. I love bats.
It’s like a confession, but I do. I think they’re fantastic. They use echolocation
to find their way round and to localise and identify objects. They leak this information
out of themselves all the time when they’re feeding
and travelling around. It’s possible to use the information that’s coming out of bats
as they’re flying around as a way to monitor
our environment. More generally, you can do that with
a lot of wildlife that make noise. It’s also possible that you could use
this bio-acoustics to monitor cities. We make noise and cars make noise
and planes make noise. We can understand this acoustic
surrounding of our environment using acoustic sensors. I set up, a long time ago now
in 2006, a big citizen science project, where I
got people to drive set transects with bat detectors
on top of their cars. I’m going to show you
a clip of that. Can we have the lights down a bit? We have 17 species of bats.
Some numbers have crashed. For others, it’s not so clear. To find out what’s going on,
it’s essential to monitor bat numbers. It’s not easy. [INAUDIBLE] but if you really want
to help bats, you can. You could volunteer for the Bat
Conservation Trust, like Rachel, who takes part
in a rather unusual survey. If I’ve got this right,
all over the country, there are people driving around
at 15 mph detecting bats? [INAUDIBLE] What do we need?
What do we have in here? Not much stuff. – Big orange beacon.
– Very Starsky and Hutch. Put that in. This is the bat detector. – That’s the actual detector?
– Yes. It’s a tongue-expansion detector. It just sits on the window. Tongue-expansion detector? Very Star Trek. What this kit actually does is make a
map of which bat species we find and where, all along the route
I’m going to drive. These surveys are going on
all over the UK. Great, so let’s get it set up. Bat man! Bat man! I think that’s enough of that. I got a load of people to take part in surround acoustic surveys in a reverse Genghis Khan move
from the UK over to Mongolia and Japan. We had a huge number of people
that were involved. This was funded
by the Darwin Initiative and we went into the different countries and worked with an NGO present. We gave them training
and equipment to understand and start mapping out
the bats that were present. Huge amount of data
was coming from these surveys all across the world. I had a petabyte of data. I didn’t even know what a petabyte was.
Now I do. It’s not just me with loads of data
and all these high-frequency recordings but also acoustic recordings
and images from cameras. There are a huge number
of biodiversity apps now, which help you record and monitor
wildlife populations. For example, FSC have got a guide
to the wildlife around you, so you can take that into the field
and look at stuff. iNaturalist is a fantastic app, which you can log all your sightings
of the things you can see. Anybody can take part in that. Ladybird app has got a whole key, but also there’s a recording scheme
for that. There’s a huge number
of these apps now, which are generating masses
and masses of data. Therein lies one of the big problems. We’ve got this huge revolution
in sensing equipment but we’ve got very few tools
or understanding in how to develop tools
to go through petabytes of information of very complex biodiversity
information. One of the ways is to start
doing automation. This is where these new algorithms
are coming in. This is an old-school way. This is a fantastic website, called
iSpot, run by Jonathan Silvertown, he’s a friend of mine so I don’t think
he’d mind me calling him old-school. You upload any photos that you take and there’s a network of experts
behind this website, that will identify things for you. These are just volunteers. There’s a badge system. It’s like eBay. If you’re good at recognising
what fungi are, you get three badges. You get a score as you go on. The more you get right,
the bigger your score is. It’s quite a cool system. I asked him a mean turnaround time
of identification on this website. He told me about three seconds. That’s insane. There’s a huge number of people
looking at this stuff. You can do it manually if you have
some kind of system behind that, which is using the power
of volunteers. However, bat calls are really hard
to identify. We wanted to try to do it automatically. We got in touch with the guys
from Zooniverse, who are at Oxford. They normally deal with galaxies. They take pictures of galaxies
and then they go through the images and use lots of citizen scientists
to tell you what shape they are and then they develop algorithms
to go through this automatically. This one I have a picture of
is called Old Weather. There’s a problem with
the climate data in that they don’t have any
from the sea. This project digitised all the ship
records from Greenwich and the whole point of this project is you log in and pretend to be
a ship captain and go through all the records and pull
out the climate data in the ships’ logs. This is an ingenious way
to get information and to create these automatic
machine learning tools to go through things automatically. I set one up called
Bat Detective with a huge number of people and a lot
of computer scientists from UCL and the Bat Conservation Trust. I asked lots and lots of people
to identify the calls in the recordings. I had a key so you could understand
what bat calls they were. Bats use different types of calls, not just for finding food
but also for singing to each other, which is very cute, and feeding as well. When they get closer to an insect they
increase the frequency of their calls so they get much more information
about the insect. There’s lots of feeding, social
and searching calls. I had about 0.5 million annotations and about 8,000 registered users. Some of them did over 50,000 each. That is insane. Using this data, we started
to develop our pipeline for analysing these data, so you’d have the raw information here,
the sound, we transform that into something
is much easier to see, this frequency transform
into a sonogram. Then we have these signals detected with all our volunteers
finding the bat calls. Then classification into
the different species. You can do this normally by taking
information out of each call and parameterising it. How long it is,
how high it is. Or you can use some of the stuff
that Google are using for playing Go at the moment
with robots, that’s the type of information
that Siri uses on your phone or Google Assistant uses
to recognise your voice, called deep learning. Deep learning doesn’t take
any information. You don’t have to extract information
out of the call. It does it for you. It decides what information is important
about that call to distinguish it from others. I love saying deep learning,
it sounds very cool. We applied it to our bat data
for the first time ever in the world. We developed this classifier. I slowed that down because bat calls
are too high for you to hear. I’ve slowed it down
for you to hear. You get a probability curve
when there’s a bat call. Our detector works pretty well. We can apply that in lots
of different situations. One of our volunteer groups
was in Jersey. For those of you who have forgotten
where Jersey is, it’s north of France,
a tiny island. I won’t say tiny,
it’s beautifully sized. Perfectly sized. We have a really active
Jersey bat group, who are amazing, a tiny bit crazy,
but amazing. They’ve driven transects
around Jersey for the last seven years. It’s not so much a sampled area
of Jersey, as a census of Jersey’s bats. I think we’ve got all of them now
in our survey. All of the roads have been covered. This is a map,
using our pipeline. The citizen science,
pulling all the data through and then generating our maps
of occurrence of these species and then applying that
into a trendline of what the abundance is
of the population. We’re really starting to become
more conservation 3.0 but not quite yet 4.0. This is a way to rapidly generate
lots of data and then understand
what the populations are doing within the system. What we’ve been doing is experimenting
with new designs of these sensors. They were pretty clunky
when they were attached to the car and very expensive. That’s a real barrier for participation. We’ve been developing,
with Alex Rogers in Oxford, a really cheap sensor
that you can put into your garden. These are about £20. You can put those in your garden
and understand what bats are around or what sound or biodiversity is around
in the acoustic surroundings. I had my student going around Madeira,
another perfectly-sized island, to collect all the data from Madeira. It’s got an endemic
endangered species there, which is really important
for us to monitor. We’ve done 3.0. What about 4.0? I’ll finish on a project which is probably the coolest
I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on and the luck to be working on. This is with the engineers
at Intel. We really had a fantastic time. This is our smart detector system. Our nature smart project. We wanted to build detectors
which had Intel chips inside it doesn’t have to be Intel, but some chips inside
with processing capability to drag through
all of their recordings, so we didn’t have to store
or analyse anything, it would do it for us. Then it would send the resulting
identifications to a website, which you can have a look. You can do this live. I thought this was really cool. We talked to the London Legacy
Development Corporation, our friends there, and we’ve put them all
in the Olympic Park. The point is that we developed
these sensors to have these algorithms
on board and they listen to the bat, they partition it up, as I showed,
with the frequency transform, they detect and identify the bat, and then they give you
a little report. This is the box.
This is the microphone. This is the chip and the board. It’s a power cord. We attach them to lampposts This is the Orbit. This is our lamppost. This is our bat detector right here. They’re on now,
so you can go and have a look. There’s some information
by each lamppost. These are the sites
where we put them. We used a randomised, stratified
sample to make sure that we could cover
the park habitats in the proportion
that they’re present. This is an awesome thing that the engineer at Intel got a bit
over-excited and built. It’s a bat gun. This shoots out echo-location calls, so we can test these detectors
as we’re going round the park. We pretended to be different bat species
on the different dials. It’s pretty retro, but I love the
design. I thought that was awesome. This is some of the results. This is from July to December. This is our interface. You can have a look at this tonight,
because bats will be out. You get a live report
of what’s going on. These are all the sensors. They flash with a white ring
when a bat is detected. The red circle grows in proportion
to how many bats were found around each sensor. If you click on a sensor, you get
this whole detailed report about how many bats were around
in the night. This continues on during the night
and gets reset the next day. We’ve had enormous amount
of data, but fortunately we don’t have
to process it, it was already processed. We can start to the analysis
straight away about mean calls per night, but also in what habitats. This is something
which still gives me a shiver. I can show you in one simple GIF, three months of data in one go
from sensors all around the park. This has never been done,
ever, anywhere, before in the world. I think that is quite extraordinary
that you can start to do that. The thing I think is extraordinary is that you can start to build this
into a 4.0 system, where you can start to think,
I’m going to dim the lights in the park, because I can. LLDC are on board
and I’ve got the switches. I can dim the lights and see what
happens to bat activity in the park. I can start to build
a smart system, which not only optimises
people’s safety, but also biodiversity present. Do I think conservation 4.0
is possible? Yes, I do. I welcome it. That might be controversial
but thank you very much. We’re going to take some questions
as they take some water. Are they are any questions
for Kate or Seirian? Here. A question for Seirian. [INAUDIBLE] Actually, since we’ve done
the wasp work, we weren’t the first
to discover that… We call it drifting where insects go
and visit other nests and spend time there. That was spotted in bumblebees
a year or so before we found it in the wasps. In fact, once we started
publishing these papers, then many more of them came out. In fact, the way we discovered it, is that we were using
our old-fashioned 1.0 version of marking our wasps with paints,
like Airfix paint, and then going to the nest
and seeing who was on the nest and doing censuses manually. We were getting wasps
on the wrong nest. I thought my group
were being really sloppy. Then we got these radio tags fitted and we realised it wasn’t sloppiness, it was genuinely the wasps moving. I think this moving between nests is actually a lot more common in
social insects than we think it to be. These workers are often unfaithful. There are several explanations
for that. It depends on the species. The thing that we found
in the wasps, was that the wasps that were
drifting to other nests were in fact helping
on those other nests. They were related to the brood
on the other nest. By spreading their help
across lots of related nests, they may well be hedging their bets, rather than putting
all their investment in one nest. That might be peculiar to the type
of population structure that we are studying, in that these wasps often nest
in these abandoned buildings which are very convenient for us
because they don’t get washed away or blown off a tree. They also form these viscous
population structures. That may be building up
more related populations than you would find in nature. You often get this nest drifting
behaviour in apiaries with honeybees or when you have bumblebees
in greenhouses for pollination purposes you get the drifting. In the bumblebees
and the honeybees, it tends to be that the bees
that drift to different nests are social parasites. They are worker bees
who can’t mate, but they can still lay male eggs
because of their crazy genetic system. They sneak into other nests, dump an egg,
and fly out again. That other nest,
which it’s unrelated to, will then have to bear the cost
of raising that brood. Think there was a question
around here. Did I see that right? Yes. [INAUDIBLE] or about what they eat, and what they do, are they clean insects? Do they carry parasites
and bacteria? People haven’t really studied it
very much at all. Unlike bees, where there’s an enormous
amount of research effort looking at bee health and we know that the parasite loads
in bees have a big impact on how
they’re effected by pesticides. We just don’t have much information
on parasites and pathogens of wasps. They do have some. There’s a really cool one,
which is a strepsiptera parasite. This is an order all of its own, which lives inside the wasp. The male doesn’t actually have an adult. The female does
and you can see them poking out between the abdominal plates
of the wasps. They’re very peculiar
and very understudied. What we know they do is mess with
the behaviour of the wasps. They make workers leave the nest
and spread the parasite. It’s basically a form of transmission. That’s a peculiar kind of parasite. You don’t get them here,
don’t worry. More questions? I may have one for Kate, actually. You gave an example of your
conservation 4.0 coming up. Have you seen more examples of this or is it just a one-off? Are you hoping people
will follow that trend or is there a different way
to build it up to reach 4.0? What’s coming up? I think there’s a lot of work
on satellites. There’s amazing satellite data
that’s coming down at the moment. We have a whole set of satellites which have been launched
over the last two years and more to go up. The sentinel satellites. They are absolutely incredible. You can watch crops grow. The amount of detail that’s possible could be utilised
in a monitoring system. I think Nathalie’s talked
about that before. You could start to think about that
in a 4.0 system that you’ve got this information
coming down. The amount of power and technology
that you will need and processing power to deal with that
is enormous. That’s a really big challenge. I think there could be
these early warning systems or adaptive systems
which we could do with something like satellites. I think that could be the first
kind of thing that could come online. Professor Jones, I was wondering, because the title was about robots
potentially stealing jobs, is it not the other way around, that with these technologies, people are
becoming more attracted to the field because they can do it
with their own phones or by participating in projects. Is it not kind of a reverse system
in that sense? I think you’re right. I think there is other ways
to view that. I do laugh when I see, robots will take
our jobs across the news, because of these AI tools. I think they just take
some of the arduous tasks away from us that we’re not actually that good at, like recognising things. We’re not brilliant at doing that
over large amounts of time and lots of information. Actually, it sweeps that away and concentrates on the things
we are actually good at, interpretation of those things
and adapting to new environments. I think it actually helps us and then attracts other people that
might not have been interested before and opens up the world
to other people to take part in these projects. For example, those audio masts
that are very cheap. A bat detector would have cost you
£150 to £10,000, depending on what you wanted. These are like £20. That’s a totally doable thing. I’m working with
the Bat Conservation Trust to set up a new British bat survey, which would involve
logging onto the system, you pick a square that you agree
to sign up to, we send you an audio mast
as part of the survey, you put it in your garden
or wherever you want, and you have the whole system, the AI system working on the internet,
on the Amazon server and you just get your report back. Done. That’s just a brilliant way
of feeding back to you what’s in your garden
or your surroundings and then you’re part of a bigger thing,
a bigger survey. There are some dangers, I think, in
terms of disengaging people with nature. If all of this is happening
somewhere else, you might not be as associated with it
as if you’d taken part in a survey on the ground, painting wasps. There is a challenge there
to keep people interested, but asking different questions,
with those tools. Is there any such thing
as wasps having the capacity to predict weather conditions? I think we can safely say
that that hasn’t been done. One of the reasons we wanted
to do the Big Wasp Survey, was because we don’t have many
long term records on insects that aren’t so attractive. Kate mentioned several of these
recording schemes and citizen science schemes, where many very gifted entomologists
around the country will submit their records. Those are brilliant
and they’ve done them for decades. It’s really valuable, but wasps are under-represented
in those datasets. Also, it’s geographically biased. It’s very difficult to draw
those sorts of conclusions with how they’re changing
with weather. There is one study by Michael Archer, who’d been studying wasp populations
in the same place for decades. There is the suggestion that the wasp
populations are affected by how wet the spring is. If you get a wet spring, it affects
the wasp populations. As to whether the wasps
can predict the weather, I think that’s less likely. I come from Trinidad. As a child, I remember my parents
[INAUDIBLE] depending on the behaviour
of certain wasps to sort of say, ‘It’s going to be
very humid’ or whatever.’ We’ve studied wasps in Trinidad. Fabulous place for wasps.
Lots of abandoned buildings. The thing about the tropics… It’s a bit different in the Tropics. I thought you meant the UK. In the Tropics, there is a big
response by wasps to rainfall. You have your dry season
and your wet seasons. Once you get the wet seasons, that’s where all the prey
starts emerging, so the wasps have got lots more food and then the population starts
exploding. You’ll probably see more wasps then. It’s interesting that you say they can pre-empt change
in pressure or something. [INAUDIBLE] The cue might simply be that
there are prey that are emerging before we even notice them. But the wasps are one step
ahead of us, maybe. Any more questions for Kate? Hi, just a quick question
for Kate. Do you think it would be possible
to develop this kind of 4.0 smart technology
for camera traps? Integrating some kind
of image recognition software? I really do. I think it’s been a long time
to get computer scientists interested. I think they now see there are
quite a lot of interesting questions that they can ask. To get another discipline interested, you can’t just ask them
to do it for you. You have to say there’s some interesting
questions which you haven’t solved and you can get a paper out of it. That’s how you can get them involved. I’ve been doing that at UCL
over the last few years and there’s been a growing interest
in nature. They are interesting problems
and it’s cool. I think a lot of people
are getting more interested in that. Google has got an AI already, which I think can do large mammals
in Africa, based on the Snapshot Serengeti dataset. There’s an AI there, that’s available. Also, on iNaturalist, they’ve been
training stuff on iNaturalist, all the images that have been
coming through. I wouldn’t say it would be possible now
to implement it in work tomorrow but I think within the next few years
that would be possible. You’d have to develop
a camera trap, which is capable
of having a chip in it, of running the AI
on the chip, which is not simple. Then sending that data
into a database, and then producing reports. There’s quite a few steps there
that need to be done. You have to lower
the price of the camera traps, because people can’t afford
to buy them. There are a few things there that need
to happen before you could do it. I guarantee it will be happening
in the next few years. Thank you. Here and then here.
I don’t know where the microphone… You’ve convinced me
that wasps are beneficial. Is there a way to encourage
more of them to be around? Usually, when we get bug spray
in Texas, we have a lot of bugs,
we also have a lot of bats, I didn’t see us on that chart there. Largest colony of Mexican freetail bats
in America. I used to be a beekeeper, so I value them but I never thought
about the wasps and when we have our house
sprayed for bugs, I say only spray the wasps
that are by the doors. Leave the rest, I’m sure
they are doing a good job. I think they get web worms
out of the trees and stuff. Is there any way to encourage
the wasps being around besides building abandoned buildings? I had a personal dilemma the other day, because I’ve got a two-year old and he has this little
wooden house in the garden. He went in his little house
and I could hear this buzzing. A little Yellowjacket had started
building a nest. She was beautiful. He was delighted. “Waps! Waps!
Mummy, waps!” It was so cute, but I had a dilemma,
what do I do? I’ve been preaching,
don’t kill the wasps. Leave the nests alone. There’s one in my child’s
Wendy house, what do I do? I did have to remove it,
because, you know… I think there’s a time and a place
for wasps. I don’t want them
where my children are playing. But you’ll be surprised to know
you can relocate wasp nests. I think somebody should make
some money out of that. What we’ve been doing a lot
in the last few years is digging up these
Yellowjacket nests and you can get the whole nest out. They get a bit angry,
but it’s fine. Theoretically, you could relocate them. Maybe that’s a new citizen science thing
we should do to get the public relocating
wasp nests. My answer is, it’s difficult, because even I, a self-confessed
lover of wasps, don’t want wasps
where they’re going to kill… sting! Sting my children. But, it’s interesting you mention that because in the Tropics, I think there is a way in which
we can encourage the wasps. You have a lot of abandoned buildings
in third-world countries in particular and the wasps will just move in
and occupy these buildings. That’s made me think, we could be
creating wasp farms. In the same way that in the States they move hundreds of thousands
of bee colonies, across the country,
through the seasons, to pollinate. They work the bees to pollinate
different crops in different seasons. I’m not suggesting
we move wasps around, but we could certainly be creating
habitats for them to move into. It’s very simple,
in the Tropics in particular, you just need
a concrete structure and just leave them to it. You can translocate them in there
and seed a population. Yeah. In Trinidad, as a child,
playing with other children, there were tons and tons of nests, if you don’t bother them,
they won’t bother you. Exactly. Thank you. We’re going to take
the last question, because I’ve been asked
to keep on time. It’s great to see Seirian back here
and Kate, both ex-IOZ people, but my question is for Kate. We’ve all seen the long IUCN red list
for many years, the living planet and this long inexorable decline
in wildlife species and biodiversity. Do you think the approach we’ve had
has been inadequate and has been failing and we need a different approach
anyway that brings in the latest
technological innovation and human economic development to fund it as well? Do you think this is
the future conservation that could solve every species wildlife
conservation problem given time? Or is that too wildly optimistic and are there going to be some
conservation problems that are intractable to our technology, however good it gets
in decades to come. I think that’s a very challenging
question, Paul. I guess this is one tool
in our toolbox that we can start to monitor
populations better and not just monitor them
but manage them. I think that’s one of the issues
that we’ve had. We don’t understand
in enough detail the impacts of our specific actions
on populations. In general, we know, but pollution, for example,
you’ve done a lot of work and leading that on PCBs. We didn’t understand those interactions until relatively recently. If we could have a better system
of understanding our actions, in a more immediate way, we can do adaptive management. I think that’s important. The second part
is we are losing this battle. We need to change tactics. I think my work, as Nathalie said,
I’m a jack-of-all-trades, it’s because I’m really passionate
about wildlife. I’m really passionate
about saving our planet. I think the only way to convince people
to do that is to link it to human health
and wellbeing. I’m afraid that’s the only way
that people will even care about it. I’ve really thought
about the consequences of biodiversity loss. That’s what I’ve been trying to do
in my research over the last few years. I guess, not just about human health
and wellbeing, but changing our economy. We really need to start to think
about limits on our economies and not just about growth, about living in our ecological limits. If you are interested in this, I’m not related to Kate in any way,
but Kate Raworth has written a book, which has been really inspiring to me. She’s thought about this new
economics called ‘Doughnut economics’. On the outside of the doughnut
is ecological sustainability, our ecological limits
of our planet. The inside of the doughnut
is our social responsibilities to people on this planet. We’ve got to live
within that doughnut. The normal idea of economics
is this rational economic man, man being the operative word, about making these decisions
about nature, about businesses and exploiting nature, as if it’s unlimited. I think this switch into doughnut
thinking, is how we need to move. Understanding the value of nature
will be a key part of that. We’re going to have to stop there
because we overran. Thank you for joining us
for these UCL Lunch Hour talks. Thank you very much to Seirian and Kate
for coming here today.

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