Spotlight: Raul Jimenez Maldonado, 26, Queretaro, Mexico
This week, we are highlighting our second area of action: Marine Pollution.
Virtually all the world’s ocean areas are affected by pollution. Pollution harms life in the sea, threatens human health and livelihoods, and reduces the availability of clean and healthy seafood.
Marine pollution is causing major ecological shifts, serious losses of biodiversity and reduced commercial yields. The amount of plastic litter in the ocean is rapidly increasing. Higher levels of nutrients and wastewater are leaking into the ocean because of climate change and coastal degradation. The result is large dead zones where there is no oxygen. Contaminants such as heavy metals, which accumulate through the food chain, or bacterial loads in coastal waters directly affect the health of millions of people. Larger items such as lost containers and fishing gear also cause a range of problems.
Still, there are large areas of the ocean with an abundance of marine life. Through global cooperation and local action, significant progress has been made in reducing the levels of some harmful substances. At the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2017, the world agreed on a long-term goal of eliminating all discharges of plastic into the ocean. However, if we are to achieve this goal, we need a global framework to coordinate and guide our common efforts. More action is also needed to reduce other pollutants, such as nutrients and wastewater.
Speaking of global framework, I am pleased to introduce you to Raul, a mechatronics engineer by training and a lifelong philanthropist and entrepreneur by heart.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and the work you are doing in your community to help protect the ocean?
Three years ago I obtained my undergraduate degree in Mechatronic Engineering with a specialization in intelligent systems at the ITESM (Monterrey Technological Higher Education), where I had the opportunity to develop strong analytical thinking skills and a stern impetus for conscious action.
Image classification through machine learning is increasingly breaking new ground in fields such as manufacturing and transport automation. However, in less commercialized fields within the environmental sciences, there’s a huge amount of information that’s not being used to its full potential. Why? Mainly because of the domain knowledge required to implement those technologies and the fact that the recollection of this data can be expensive and an overall slow process.
Our main goal is to create a reliable system for an agile recollection of data in order to improve the way we monitor, analyze, and ultimately engage with Earth’s natural systems.
Aided by machine-learning, UAV (Unmanned aerial vehicle) technology and bioengineering, we want to create a system that is able to capture hidden information from complex, burdensome experiments in order to obtain a plausible approximation to those results. How? By utilizing easily available information thus making data acquisition faster and low-priced.
The project focuses on classifying the water composition of large bodies of water (e.g. oceans and lakes) from remote sensor imagery (satellite and drones). Conventionally, this is a slow process that would require several days depending on the size of the surface. We will capture hyperspectral images of a location of interest, manually classify and tag visually identifiable water quality compositions such as garbage pools and algae. After that phase, an artificial neural network will be trained to approximate those results.
What inspired you to get involved in ocean health?
The necessity of a clean world for my children and for future generations, in general.
Why do you believe your ocean project is especially impactful?
What excites me the most about the project is to give biologists and environmental scientists the ability to generate fast and low-cost estimations of where those nutrients are, so that effective and localized strategies can be implemented to remediate and mitigate the effects of the agricultural runoffs.
Finally, I would like to utilize this project as the baseline for future projects that make groundbreaking technologies accessible, easy-to-use and inexpensive for people who share a love for the environment. This is the first step in our mission to understand, engage, and protect the planet.
What does being a young ocean leader mean to you?
To paraphrase Toni Morrison — “Being a young ocean leader means that I have the responsibility to empower somebody else. I do not take pride in having a special privilege as I would in having the opportunity to share that privilege with others. I understand that saving the oceans is not the task for one man with a great idea, it requires hard work and cooperation and the realization that we, as human beings, are all in this together, as a community.”
Where do you see yourself and your work in five years?
What excites me the most about this project is to give biologists and environmental scientists the ability to generate fast and low-cost estimations of where remediation actions are needed so that effective and localized strategies can be implemented to remediate and mitigate the effects of human activities.
I would like to utilize this project to set the baseline so that in five years I can greatly advance in my mission to make groundbreaking technologies accessible, easy-to-use and reasonable for those people who share a love for the planet.
This is the first step in our mission to understand, engage, and protect the planet.
How can others around the world help in the fight to protect our oceans?
There are several ways in which I believe we can fight to protect our oceans and the first one and most important one (in my opinion) is to engage with members of the community who share a love for the same cause. Engaging and becoming part of this community will empower, not only, the individuals who join but the entire community. I believe we have an obligation to inform ourselves about the greatest threats that our oceans are facing so we can spread awareness about it to our friends, families, and colleagues. By doing this, we will unite so many people.
The final step (and the easiest) is to take specific actions to tackle the issues. I say this is the easiest one because I believe that if we manage to create a big, strong community, the change will come like a tidal wave. The biggest problem we have to tackle is the ignorance around the issues and, more importantly, the ignorant complicity with the deterioration of the oceans. Once we all push in the same direction, we will be able to move the world.
Wow! Raul is creating amazing strides when it comes to marine pollution solutions. We can’t wait to see/hear more from him in Oslo. For more information on the Our Ocean Conference and to see the full agenda, visit our website or leave us a comment on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.