On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re celebrating the pioneering work old old girl Ellie Mackay, environmental scientist, filmmaker and founder of Ellipsis Earth.
Ellipsis Earth Ltd is an organisation that uses the power of machine learning and aerial imaging to track waste deposits and find collaborative solutions to reduce or prevent them returning.The solution she developed with Ellipsis combines her experience of drone flying for the military with the accurate data gathering of research science into a really sophisticated tool for mapping plastic. She designed an algorithm that can automatically detect 47 different types of waste to 93 per cent accuracy, processing around 10,000 images a second. It’s a phenomenally powerful piece of software.
She has been involved in some exciting projects with Ellipsis. With National Geographic they mapped the length of the Ganges before and after the monsoon, collecting robust data that showed where waste was coming from as well as where it ended up, and they were able to use it to help drive behaviour change. They also worked on a successful programme in Sorrento, jointly sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Environment and a tobacco brand, surveying cigarette-butt littering. As a result of the data they collected they were able to tell city officials where would be the best places to position ashtrays and trash cans. Comparing the data before and after the programme they were able to show a 70 percent reduction in cigarette littering, that’s around half a million fewer cigarette butts going into the ocean every summer. Now they’re aiming to do this in cities across the world.
Ellie is also a research professional and experienced science communicator who has found adventure and inspiration all over the globe. She uses her skills in broadcast media, public speaking, teaching, drone piloting and film-making to tell positive stories about conservation. Her first feature film, Fragmented, won 42 awards at film festivals and will hopefully be available through a major online streaming platform in the next year.