Speaker Piero Visconti
Affiliation Microsoft Research
Host Lucas Joppa
Date recorded 20 March 2014
We live in the middle of two unprecedented ages. The first is the Information Age; of laptops, smart phones, the internet, ubiquitous computing and an enormous, constant, flux of data about the environment and about us. The second is the Anthropocene – defined by an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity caused by human activity. Computational ecology and conservation figuratively connect these two ages by using novel hardware and software tools to make predictions about the planet and to inform conservation-decision making aimed at safeguarding the environment and our wellbeing. In this talk I’ll demonstrate some important applications of computational methods to conservation through my own recent work. These include the use of global search algorithms to identify the regions where the most endemic plant species can be protected at the minimum cost, and to schedule actions for biodiversity conservation that optimally balance cost-effectiveness and likelihood of success in the face of uncertain implementation. I will then present my ongoing and prospective future research at Microsoft which includes optimizing trade-offs between economic activities and biodiversity conservation in the Amazon, and the use of active-learning methods to direct the search and eradication of invasive species or to identify the last refuges of cryptic endangered species. These are a few examples of how computational tools can help us understand and conserve life on earth. I am interested in working with computer scientists, ecologists and conservation practitioners to address the biggest challenges in ecology and conservation.
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