Across vast regions globally, biodiversity is facing numerous threats that are causing species extinctions and the loss of ecosystem services. In Australia alone, the number of federally listed species rose by about 10% (44 species) between 2011-2018, yet the resources required to implement the existing recovery plans are inadequate.
In addition, competition for resources worldwide means that conservation research and management organisations face a new challenge – doing more with less. There are increasing demands for organisations to account for the efficiency and effectiveness of investments in natural capital. The fields of ecology and conservation have not progressed fast enough to meet the enormity of the environmental challenge we are facing. Other disciplines, facing similar challenges have embraced technological advancements in data analysis and artificial intelligence to do more with less by harnessing smart algorithms that can find patterns and make real-time recommendations from complex data.
Ecological research has historically been challenged by the complexity of the natural world and by a lack of resources to collect and analyse sufficient data to make timely recommendations. These are challenges that artificial intelligence can help resolve. The immediate AI opportunity lies in exploiting and developing research that can handle small data sets to provide big environmental rewards. Iadine will present some of the AI applications that she has (co-)developed to help make better conservation decisions over the past 10 years. These applications deal with uncertain knowledge of the present (imperfect detection) and future (adaptive management).
Iadine is an artificial intelligence scientist and team leader of the Conservation Decisions team at CSIRO. Her research is at the forefront of linking conservation science with quantitative tools from the field of artificial intelligence.