As a kid, José Lahoz-Monfort was crazy about wildlife and nature, but his tech curiosity landed him a career in tech engineering world.
After studying telecommunications engineering at the University of Zaragoza in his home country, Spain, José worked as a system design engineer at Nokia but his passion for conservation never faded.
During his Masters in Conservation Science at Imperial College London, UK, José found himself in Madagascar monitoring Alaotran gentle lemurs. He then pursued a PhD in Ecological Statistics at the University of Kent. “There’s so much potential in technology,” he says. “That motivated me to get back to my origins and combine my research in wildlife and conservation with my background in engineering.”
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Now a senior lecturer and researcher in ecological modelling at the University of Melbourne, José is using several high-tech tools to keep an eye on threatened wildlife, including drones, thermal cameras and acoustic sensors.
One of José’s projects is tracking down Coxen’s fig parrot, a small elusive bird found in south-eastern Queensland. Instead of spending weeks in the field trying to see or hear them, José and his team are training their acoustic monitoring device to detect the parrot’s call automatically. When a call is pinpointed, the device remotely alerts the researchers so they can plan an expedition to that area.
José says the most rewarding thing about his work is that he gets to put both of his passions to use. “There’s the technology challenge as an engineer, but also that aspect of caring for nature and trying to save species and habitats,” says José. “Conservation is a crisis discipline, so we need technology now more than ever.”
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For students looking to save the planet with tech, José says that it’s important to be collaborative and learn to communicate with people in other disciplines. “There’s going to be a growing market for conservation technologies,” adds José. “It’s a career that didn’t really exist five years ago.”
José’s study and career pathway
Author: Gemma Conroy
Gemma is a freelance journalist with a passion for making science accessible to everyone. Gemma has a degree in biology from Macquarie University and loves sharing amazing discoveries with the world.