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Seminar | Computing, Environment and Life Sciences

Computational Ecology and AI for Conservation

CELS Seminar

Abstract: Computation has fundamentally changed the way we study nature. New data collection technology, such as GPS, high-definition cameras, UAVs, genotyping, and crowdsourcing, are generating data about wild populations that are orders of magnitude richer than any previously collected. Unfortunately, in this domain as in many others, our ability to analyze data lags substantially behind our ability to collect it.

In this talk, I will show how computational approaches can be part of every stage of the scientific process of understanding and protecting wildlife, from intelligent data collection (crowdsourcing photographs and identifying individual animals from photographs by stripes and spots: Wildbook​.org) to hypothesis formulation, and provide scientific insight into collective behavior of zebras, baboons, and other social animals, in the context of their natural habitats.

Bio: Tanya Berger-Wolf is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she heads the Computational Population Biology Lab. As a computational ecologist, her research is at the unique intersection of computer science, wildlife biology, and social sciences. She creates computational solutions to address questions such as how environmental factors affect the behavior of social animals (humans included). Berger-Wolf is also a director and co-founder of the conservation software non-profit Wild Me, home of the Wildbook project, which enabled the first ever full census of the entire species, the endangered Grevy’s zebra in Kenya, using photographs from ordinary citizens. Berger-Wolf holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.