Putting a conservation finger on the internet's pulse

phys.org | 7/31/2019 | Staff
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Scientists from the University of Helsinki have figured out how to mine people's online reactions to endangered animals and plants so that they can reduce the chance of pushing species toward extinction.

When the last male northern white rhinoceros died in March 2018, online news printed obituaries, and millions of people grieved on social media. This one event alone quadrupled the number of posts using the keyword rhino, with the general sentiment expressed becoming distinctly negative.

Researchers - Helsinki - Lab - Interdisciplinary - Conservation

Researchers at the Helsinki Lab of Interdisciplinary Conservation Science are keeping tabs on online trends that affect rhinos and other endangered species. They have developed a computer algorithm that continuously measures the volume of online discussions on the topic, and measures the emerging sentiments from users.

And it's this key information that alerts the scientists whenever the average sentiment exceeds the norm, highlighting that a major event affecting species has occurred.

Article - Biological - Conservation - Researcher - Christoph

In their article published in the journal Biological Conservation, lead researcher Christoph Fink and his team highlight the possibilities and the precision of their online-mining method. Compiling an exhaustive list of all rhino-related online events that happened around the world over five months, the researchers' method successfully identified all the major rhino-related events.

"We found that social-media users and online news writers care most about rhinos when tragic events take place, such as the death of the last northern white rhino," Mr. Fink said. "But people love to share happy moments too, such as a rhino calf being born in a zoo."

Media - Posts - News - Articles - Events

Social media posts and online news articles mostly agree on which events are important, the researchers found. However, most posts came from countries that do not have rhinos.

"We don't think that this had much to do with the generally poorer internet access in countries where wild rhinos live, but more because many environmental agencies are based in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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