Joel Masselink

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Managing large-scale wildlife data using GIS

Great Elephant Census

by Joel Masselink


What is the Great Elephant Census?


How was GIS used to manage data?


Results + Impacts of GEC

What is the GEC?

The Great Elephant Census

a Paul G. Allen project - est. 2014

Vulcan Inc.

Elephants Without Borders (P.I)

Need for GEC

current data for population status assessment across range

K.S. Gobush/ Save The Elephants, 2013

Ivory ban

Ivory sale to China

Need for GEC

current data for population status assessment across range

GEC partners

Great Elephant Census

by the numbers:

90 scientists

286 crew people

81 airplanes

 550+ flights

750,000+ observations

60 different species identified

9700 hours of flight time

20 countries

Survey design

  • strata
  • transects

Spatial data collection




audio recorder




Spatial data collection

flight parameters


GPS tracks logs


height above ground

ground speed

Survey data collection

  • flight track logs
  • observations records

Data normalization

Data normalization + validation


Validation: expert review of survey results

Survey data + results



[Python, GDAL]

[GPS Babel,

DNR Garmin]




Results + Impacts of the GEC

Results + Impacts of the GEC

GEC database

Results + Impacts of the GEC

African Elephant Database

- GEC data + reports provided to AfESG

Sept 2016 - African Elephant Status Report

Nov 2016 - CITES Conference of Parties

- complete primary data preserved

- normalized across GEC

- platform for further analysis

conservation implications

  • status of elephants + other species
  • status of poaching
  • human activities / encroachment
  • informs land use planning + law enforcement

Results + Impacts of the GEC


Vulcan colleagues:


Kathleen Gobush

Kirk Larsen

Ted Schmitt


many GEC collaborators:

Thank you !













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