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Canadian wins regional youth award
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Canadian wins regional youth award

Sowmyan Jegatheesan, the regional winner of the Commonwealth Youth Awards for the Caribbean and Canada, is a born leader. His web portal SystemaNaturae.org has been helping research centres, think tanks and universities in more than 130 countries, to better understand the factors influencing climate change, wildlife migration patterns and human-wildlife conflict, among other things.
Omeye Chimaobi Kenechukwu, a 24-years-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Nigeria interviewed Sowmyan Jagatheesan to find out more about his work.

Why did you name your wildlife datasets portal SystemaNaturae.org?

SystemaNaturae.org was inspired by CarlLinnaeus when he introduced taxonomy, the concept of classifying species. Our Project collects/indexes data from across the internet from reputable open data sources; we classify and then publish the data for consumption.  

How does your work contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Our project primarily contributes to SDG 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land). Secondary focus is on SDG 12(Responsible consumption and production) and SDG13(Climate Action). We help people who are working at the grassroots level with data resources.

What motivated you to start this project?

While reading the Living Planet Report from the World Wildlife Fund, we found that there were gaps when it came to data and project related information. We built this portal that collects and indexes datasets and projects related to wildlife.

The human population is growing and we are destroying forests and wildlife habitat for our benefit, but we have a moral obligation with our powers of observation, memory, curiosity, imagination, and reason not to outsmart other species on this beautiful earth, but to find ways to coexist with them peacefully. Our vision with SystemaNaturae.org  is a world where animals and plants of all species co-exist in a peaceful way and we will achieve this goal.

Why are plants excluded from SystemaNaturae.org?

The Impact of animals on human life is higher than that of plants. This is because of the mobile nature of animals and that is why we are concentrating on animals for now. 

What has the impact of SystemaNaturae.org been, so far?

Initially, when we were smaller we had difficulty reaching our users, but over the past two years, as we have grown bigger and our datasets have grown in size, we have been reaching more of our users from universities, public policy stakeholders, governments and non-profits. To date, we have users from more than 130 countries, 1700 cities and 250 universities. http://www.systemanaturae.org/impact/

What kind of help have you had locally and internationally?

We have a wide spectrum of users from across the world, we also have our volunteers spread across the world who are dedicated to our cause and they help us with all of the functioning of the portal.

What are some of the main challenges that you’ve had at SystemaNaturae?

Getting wider attraction has been a challenge. Also, the inability to access accurate projects/reports from Africa, Asia and South America has been a huge challenge because it now limits our datasets origins i.e. there is a need for significant resources. 

Is there room to diversify SystemaNaturae?

Not really. Our users give us feedback and we try to adapt to the information they give us in order to serve them better. We can continue updating base on their suggestions.

What are your future plans?

To continue doing what we are doing. Collecting more data from areas we lack mostly e.g. Africa, Asia and South America 

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work highlights the contributions of young people who are making a difference in their communities and celebrates their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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Photo Credit: Commonwealth Flickr and Pixabay

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About Omeye Chimaobi Kenechukwu: I am a Geology graduate of the University of Nigeria. I’m currently a renewable energy (solar) mini-grid data analyst with a leading renewable energy firm in Nigeria and, most importantly, a core lover of writing. The degradation of Nigeria has been of major concern to me and I hope to make a huge impact in the development of my country by writing and telling the truth even when it seems hidden. I love my career (geology), environment, renewable energy, politics and football.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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