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A team of researchers from around the world, led by Ohio State University, will be gathering data to create artificial intelligence-informed models to better understand the long-term impact of the climate crisis on biodiversity.
Experts from six universities in Canada, Europe, Australia, and the U.S. are working to develop AI-enabled and data-supported research to study how the climate crisis is impacting life on the planet. The scientists on this team want to understand how it will make life harder for plants, insects, and other species of animals, Ohio State University announced this month.
Tanya Berger-Wolf, the faculty director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute (TDAI) at Ohio State University is one of the leading investigators for the multi-country AI development effort. Wolf explained that some of the AI models that the researchers plan to use for data analysis already exist, but other parts need to be developed to better analyze the information that the international team intends to gather.
“We need to know how to analyze this,” Berger-Wolf told Earther. “But for this basic research to happen, and to have impact, we need to engage a large number of partners from the beginning.”
She explained that in areas of the world where there is a lot of biodiversity, there are often data gaps about species there. This could occur for a number of reasons including that those areas may be remote or are less likely to have large human populations, making species difficult to observe. Working to collect more data will create more accurate models that will help researchers analyze how some under-observed species are being affected by the climate crisis. And the more information existing AI-informed ecological models receive, the more accurate the analysis.
One user case for collecting data and using AI to help analyze it is gathering information about a range of species in the U.S. to better understand how changing weather patterns are affecting seasonal migrations. Researchers intend to study over 200 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals that breed about 500 miles north of the Canadian-U.S. border, Ohio State News reported. Researchers will gather the data about the animal species they intend to study from sound recorders, satellite images, cameras, and information from citizen scientists. Once the models analyze that data, researchers hope to understand how some species’ range may be shifting north as average temperatures increase over time.
Berger-Wolf explained that this can be applied to other communities around the world who are working to understand different climate scenarios. The larger project hasn’t just partnered with some universities but with nonprofits, industry leaders, and governments all over the world. Those outside of academia who are participating can upload animal sightings and photos to apps to increase the data pool for future AI-informed models.
“There’s so many nature lovers out there who will gladly go out and take a picture and contribute their picture as evidence,” she said. “[There’s] platforms like eBird and iNaturalist.”
Berger-Wolf also pointed out that having more information about how biodiversity is being affected by climate change could help leaders and organizations form new solutions. This could include using the AI-informed models to work on solutions for conservation or climate education. “We want them to be able to use AI to design and to fully incorporate that research for policymakers,” she explained.
Want more climate and environment stories? Check out Earther’s guides to decarbonizing your home, divesting from fossil fuels, packing a disaster go bag, and overcoming climate dread. And don’t miss our coverage of the latest IPCC climate report, the future of carbon dioxide removal, and the invasive plants you should rip to shreds.