Alexandra Russo

United States of America

Regional Finalist,
North America
Alexandra Russo's Bio
  • 27
  • American
  • United States of America
ChimpFace: Chimpanzee Facial Recognition Technology to Combat Wildlife Trafficking
Summary of Big Idea: 

ChimpFace uses chimpanzee facial recognition and mapping technologies to investigate when and where wildlife trafficking occurs. ChimpFace works with researchers, investigators, and citizen scientists through a free cell phone app to collect photos of chimps in the wild, for sale online, and in captivity. The app examines chimp photos for recognition and determines when and where we have seen an individual chimp before, alerting authorities of potential criminal movements. This tool will be especially useful in three primary situations: 1) surveying the internet for photographic evidence of live chimp trafficking; 2) monitoring the trade in live captive chimps; and 3) studying wild chimp populations. We’ve built a prototype, have seen preliminary success identifying two chimps seized in Nepal, and already have plans to expand this technology to include more animal species.


I am a passionate and innovative Conservation Biologist. My interest in the environment started when I was young – spending hours outside exploring and watching wildlife films. My work focuses on environmental and wildlife crimes and governance, and has brought me to Alaska, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, and South Africa. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management (Goucher College) and a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology (University of Cape Town). When I am not working, I enjoy traveling, hiking, and cycling. I spent the last six months backpacking through Southeast Asia and biking along the California coast with my dog.