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IACS Faculty Wins AI for Earth Award

Heather Lynch and ten others win Microsoft and National Geographic Society grants

Lynch fieldshot


IACS core faculty member and Ecology and Evolution Associate Professor Heather Lynch applied for a grant last July from a joint program involving a partnership between Microsoft and National Geographic Society. The grant was aimed at researchers who use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tackle the world’s critical environmental challenges. Winners were announced this week, and under the category of biodiversity conservation was our own Heather Lynch, who has teamed up with Dimitris Samaras, from Stony Brook's Computer Science Department, to develop AI-based algorithms for tracking penguins from satellite imagery.
 
"I've been manually annotating imagery for nearly a decade," says Lynch, "but the work is so labor intensive that it's just not a good solution for regular monitoring across the entire Antarctic. Teaming up with Dimitris Samaras and his students has opened an exciting new chapter in penguin conservation - their expertise in computer vision is clearly where the field needs to go, and I'm delighted that this new grant will allow us to plow ahead with this exciting interdisciplinary work."

Heather tracks Antarctic penguin populations to forecast the impacts of climate change. She uses satellite imagery to find guano stains, which are indications of the penguins’ whereabouts and their population estimates. Winning this award will not only fund two graduate students in Computer Science, but it also provides for considerable computing support through Microsoft Azure. "Automated algorithms for penguin detection may be labor saving from a human perspective, but this remains computationally-intense work, and the support from Microsoft will be absolutely key as we work to scale up a sustainable solution for penguin conservation," notes Lynch.
 
For more information, check out:
 Press release: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/newsroom/eleven-changemakers-chosen-as-recipients-of-microsoft-and-national-geographic-ai-for-earth-innovation-grants/
 Microsoft blog post: https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2018/12/11/microsoft-and-national-geographic-society-announce-ai-for-earth-innovation-grantees/

 

 

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