Conserving wildlife while human society expands into the far corners of the Earth has been a tough act to balance and one that we are constantly failing at.
|Vedant working on an ORA protoype|
Vedant Srinivas: I’ve been an animal person my whole life. From a young age, I would always choose to be around animals rather than play with cars, and the San Diego Safari Park was my favorite place to go. A few years ago, I visited my cousin in Boston and got very close to their dog – Elsa. Upon my return back to Seattle I got the news that Elsa became a victim of roadkill. This event affected me a lot.
|Ora Device – Light sensors on both sides, solar-powered,
speaker at the bottom for deterrent noises.
Ora is about $100, and it has a range of upwards of 500 feet on either side of a straight road. The cost comes out to approximately $600 per mile compared to fencing which is $100,000 per mile and animal bridges which can be upward of $4 million. A road equipped with Ora acts like a virtual fence allowing animals to pass when there is no danger from cars but warns them when there are vehicles approaching.
The main problem with other virtual fence solutions is habituation. This is where the animal eventually gets used to the sounds and light emitted by the solution over time. This is primarily due to using tonal beeps and single light patterns. I overcame potential habituation with Ora by using light patterns that vary constantly and colors that are tuned to fit the animal’s visual spectrum. For example (deer are more reactive to light in the blue to green wavelength).
Looking at audio, I use predatory noises like wolf howls and bear growls to deter prey animals, as studies have proven they are more susceptible to that, and also these sounds stay effective for much longer timeframes compared to tonal beeps. I also randomly cycle through the audio files.
I presented Ora at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in September of 2021 and received interest from people in several states in the US and even Sweden. I won the Student Aspiration Award (best presentation amongst all students– including doctoral students) at this conference and I am the only high schooler to ever have participated in the conference.
|Preparing to deploy the Ora devices in Southern California
My work has been supported by several departments of transportation including Nevada and the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.
If these innovations became popular how do you plan to scale their deployment?
To scale Ora I started my own company, IyarkAI. I have outsourced my manufacturing to a contract hardware shop in Kerala, India and currently working through design for manufacturing processes. There is another variant of Ora for predator deterrence that has seen traction and right now I’m working on modifying the first version to accommodate RF-based motion sensor technology for this use case.