Throwback to the WEkEO Hackathon 2023Online hackathon for Mercator Ocean
WEkEO hackathon 2023 attracted nearly 400 participants on June 22-23, 2023. These individuals embraced the challenge of crafting inventive, data-intensive solutions aimed at making a positive difference in our environment. Notable among the winning entries were prediction models addressing evolving scenarios in vital coastal ecosystems, educational initiatives leveraging Earth Observation data to illustrate environmental impacts through engaging video game formats, and the utilization of WEkEO data to train AI models for hyperlocal weather forecasts, thereby improving accuracy and readiness.
Overview of the #WekeoHackathon 2023
Between 22 and 23 June Mercator Ocean International organised a 48-hour online Hackathon calling for the creation of innovative solutions that can effectively tackle pressing issues and contribute to sustainable development. The hackathon was dedicated to a qualified audience of people managing environmental data.
Through the use of WEkEO data, the Hackathon participants had the opportunity to take the stage, proposing innovative projects and groundbreaking ideas that contribute to effective and sustainable policymaking, management, and planning in the coastal, arctic, health, and energy domains. The ultimate goal was to harness the potential of Copernicus data so that the winner could help drive positive change in paving the way for a more sustainable future.
What is WEkEO?
Near-real time data from models, satellites and in-situ from Copernicus Atmosphere, Climate, Marine and Land services
Challenges of the event
The Coastal Challenge arose from the need to find a sustainable balance between the ever-growing population residing along the coasts and the necessity to conserve and protect the coastal ecosystems and biodiversity. Participants were required to propose solutions that could effectively tackle pressing natural issues, such as erosion, storm tides, tsunamis, and rising population awareness about these matters, all while allowing human activities to continue.
The Arctic region is among the most severely affected by climate change. The Arctic challenge emerged due to this pressing urgency, encompassing a range of other challenges, such as permafrost thawing and ice melting.
Furthermore, there is a growing rise in political and economic interests concerning this region. The solutions put forward by the participants needed to ensure that decision-makers and economic development adequately take into account the high vulnerability of this region.
There is a significant connection between climate change and health. The escalating emissions of greenhouse gases severely diminish the availability of clean air and reliable food supply. Consequently, the need to discover solutions that can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable social behaviours across the global population becomes an urgent challenge.
The participants were tasked with finding solutions that could raise widespread awareness of this crucial link between health conditions and the environment. Moreover, these solutions should address the actions of decision-makers accordingly, seeking to foster positive changes in response to this critical issue.
The need to transition towards a renewable energy industrial model is widely acknowledged, but numerous challenges persist in executing this shift, despite its crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Implementing solar energy, inland or offshore wind energy, wave or tidal hydropower, and even algae-based solutions encounters various operational difficulties, and most of these alternatives still fall short of meeting the global energy demand.
To address these issues, the participants were required to use Earth Observation (EO) data to assist in evaluating, exploring, and managing the transition towards renewable energy sources. Their focus was on optimising the planning and risk assessment of renewable energy projects, aiming to overcome obstacles and achieve a more sustainable energy future.
The vast amount of Copernicus Data available presents a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment. The Wildcard challenge emerges from the concept of harnessing all the available data, particularly those that may not neatly align with the other challenges.
This data can play a crucial role in addressing a wide array of issues, including plastic pollution, reforestation, water conservation, transitioning the transportation sector, preserving biodiversity, ensuring sustainable food supply chains, and promoting climate education.
Participants in this challenge were tasked with exploring new and unconventional approaches that have the potential to make a significant difference in the pursuit of a greener and more sustainable world.
Warm-up Virtual Sessions
Rewatch the footage of the Virtual Live Sessions of the 2-week Ideation Warm-Up, which paved the way for the WEkEO Hackathon.
Key figures from the Hackathon
The Hackathon received a total of 389 registrants, 29 different teams from countries all over the world and 13 ideas submitted. 12 mentors supported the participants’ activity throughout the 48-hour journey.
The winners were awarded one-year access to the WEkEO platform paid cloud computing, including the following services: datasets discovery, Jupyter Notebooks downloads, virtual machine support, processing tools, and free networking (in and out). an
Landing page events
Overall Winner: GALENE project
Led by Alessandra Sellini, Co-Founder & CEO at Galene Pathways and Marine Ecologist at Wildlife Tracker, the GALENE project used the Copernicus Marine Service’s environmental data to develop a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm that predicts how critical coastal ecosystems, such as seagrass, mangroves, and coral reefs, will shift under the current climate change scenario. The algorithm considers key environmental variables (temperature, pH, salinity, etc.) and aligns them with the species’ ecological niches. The model’s outcomes will assist in directing conservation and restoration efforts, while also improving marine spatial planning. The main objective is to enhance ecosystem and biodiversity protection, ensuring the continuity of vital ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, food security, and coastal protection. The project addressed Challenge #1 – Coastal, where data processing intersects with marine conservation. The goal is to leverage technology to tackle long-standing threats to coastal ecosystems effectively.
In the future, the project aims to build partnerships with stakeholders to promote informed decision-making in marine conservation and refine the model with localised, specialised data. For the hackathon, the focus was on Posidonia Oceanica, an endemic Mediterranean species that has experienced a significant decline due to human impacts. This species provides crucial ecosystem services, including carbon storage and food security.
“Climate change is upon us and we don’t want to stay idle. We want to see the project grow to realise its full potential, being used by communities around the world and facilitating the collaboration and dialogue between all the stakeholders of the marine environment. We would like to create a platform where everyone will feel involved and heard and where the gap between humanity and nature is bridged with the aid of technology.”
Alessandra Sellini, GALENE project team leader, Marine Biologist & Data Scientist
GALENE project team members:
- Alessandra Sellini (team leader, Marine Biologist & Data Scientist),
- Andrew Ryan (Entrepreneur & Data Scientist),
- Alana Boyles (Marine Biologist & Sustainability Consultant)
- Tobias Ferreira (Oceanographer & Software Engineer)
Runner up: Mpactful
Led by Amie Corbin, PhD Candidate at CML (Leiden University), the Mpactful team proposed “Pollution Panic” an educational project that sheds light on environmental impacts through EO data, presented in a fun and engaging manner. The project takes the form of a video game where players assume the role of the antagonist, “Pollution,” aiming to eradicate humanity by manipulating environmental conditions. Players can enact laws and actions that affect environmental quality and sustainability, such as allowing companies to dump waste into the ocean or increasing nitrogen pollution limits. These effects vary based on location-specific environmental data, gathered from WEkEO data service products like sea water velocity, Global NDVI, and Carbon Monoxide products. As the game progresses, players collect “corruption” or “emission” points to unlock additional actions, skills, and data layers, allowing them to witness the global spread of pollution and corruption. However, players must strike a balance between their actions and public awareness, strategically deciding whether to hinder sustainable development, undermine scientific research, or reach total destruction before humanity achieves a sustainable lifestyle.
“Amie and Raphael both feel it’s easy to work hard on something you’re passionate about, so we immediately thought that our hobby of playing and developing games could play a role. However, we kept coming back to the point of, would someone actually play this? Driving the point home about climate change and the importance of EO to monitor these changes was important, but if the game isn’t fun, no one would play it anyway.
…Our game tries to educate about the influence of different environmental impacts as seen from EO data and the effects of certain environment-related actions in a fun, engaging way”
Amie Corbin, Mpactful project team leader, PhD Candidate at CML (Leiden University)
Raphael Scmitz, .NET Developer at Conclusion Learning Centers
Mpactful project team members:
- Amie Corbin, PhD Candidate at CML (LeidenUniversity)
- Raphael Scmitz, .NET Developer at Conclusion Learning Centers
- Rachael N. Collymore, Consultant, Publicist, Creative Strategist, IP Trainer and advocate for the Creative Industries
Third Place: TeRain
Europe is grappling with an unprecedented surge in climate change, resulting in a significant loss of lives and widespread economic devastation. To combat these challenges effectively, improved forecasting is crucial, allowing for better preparation and mitigation measures.
Led by Laura Lewis, freelance data scientist/AI engineer, the TeRain project aims to leverage data from the WeKEO service to train AI models capable of providing hyperlocal forecasts of temperature and precipitation. These models will be further adapted for microcontrollers, creating sensors that can be deployed to establish a network of hyperlocal forecasts.
For analysis, the project plans to utilise datasets such as the ERA 5 reanalysis (land data) of the 2m temperature and volumetric water content of the soil from Copernicus, in addition to cloud and precipitation maps (atmospheric data) from EUMETSAT. By combining these datasets and advanced AI techniques, the project seeks to enhance forecasting accuracy, potentially mitigating the impact of extreme weather events and enabling better preparedness to safeguard lives and economies.
“I intend to improve the project by using physical parameters and fine-tuning in the models to enhance the reliability of the forecasts. It would be great to establish a network of smart weather stations in the UK and beyond that could be used to make a high-resolution map of current conditions. This would enable personalised weather forecasts to a large number of people and organisations.”
Laura Lewis, TeRain project team leader, freelance data scientist/AI engineer
TeRain project team members:
- Laura Lewis, freelance data scientist/AI engineer
- Olayinka Osuolale, Environmental Scientist & Postdoctoral Researcher at Elizade University
Pitching & Award Live Event
Rewatch the footage of the WEkEO Hackathon Pitching & Award Event!
Meet the partners
The Bottom Line
This event echoes Mercator Ocean International’s mission towards global ocean knowledge for a sustainable ocean aligned with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’s vision.
Get in touch with us today!
Book a time slot on our calendar and we will be happy to guide you all the way to a successful online hackathon!