The animal kingdom has a lot to thank big data for. Following last week’s news that Japanese scientists are mapping bluefin tuna populations to ensure a sustainable supply of sushi, Microsoft’s engineers are getting in on the act as well, lending a helping hand in the battle to save several of the world’s most endangered species from dying out.
The software giant has teamed up with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in order to help ‘track and trace’ the 100 species considered to be most ‘at risk’ of extinction, which includes the golden lion tamarin monkey (pictured above), and the world’s smallest and slowest moving sloth – the Pygmy Three-Toed sloth.
These species are just some of the ones on the IUCN’s Red List, which also includes plants and fungi such as the Willow’s Blister, a small mushroom that is now confined to a remote corner of Wales, in the UK.
Microsoft won’t be chasing after poachers or illegal mushroom pickers by themselves, but what they have done is to create a new software application that can help conservationists to spot current and future threats to the most at risk species. The application basically maps out the eco-systems of those species on the Red List, and keeps track of both populations and any factors that could threaten them, such as water scarcity, development and predator populations, meaning that conservationists can keep a good eye on things in something close to real-time, and take action as and when it’s needed.
Professor Stephen Emmott, Head of Computational Science at Microsoft, said that the company had a responsibility to do its part for the environment:
“This century will be defined, not least, by whether we are able to tackle unprecedented global ecological and environmental challenges.”
“This will require NGO’s, Governments, universities and businesses to establish new kinds of partnerships, new kinds of science and scientists, and new kinds of technologies. Our partnership with the IUCN, led by Dr. Lucas Joppa, a leading ecologist based at my laboratory, is a pioneering example of this combination”.