AI for biodiversity data collation and reuse

Samantha Cheng

Samantha Cheng

Title: Finding the needle in the evidence haystack – AI for biodiversity data collation and reuse

Abstract: Scientific research is growing at exponential rates, generating potentially useful datasets at a faster pace than humans can practically find, understand, and use it to make decisions about natural ecosystems. While there has been significant progress in systematically and transparent harnessing this data and synthesizing key insights around biodiversity patterns, threats, and mechanisms driving changes in diversity, this is still a particularly time-consuming task. Artificial intelligence approaches such as machine learning and natural language processing present exciting opportunities to automate, or semi-automate the processing of this information to maximize the full potential of the entire universe of research data in near real-time. In order for these approaches to perform, we require greater clarity around common data structures for biodiversity information (incl. taxonomies, geographies, biomes, and conservation approaches). This presentation will discuss new applications of AI approaches to “smart-sort” relevant information from the “evidence universe” and highlight areas where improvement in needed.

Biography: By training, Samantha Cheng is a population geneticist and conservation scientist, with experience both in the field working in tropical coral reefs, cephalopod fisheries, seafood sustainability - and in the policy sphere, engaging with diverse stakeholders in organizations, governments, and academic institutions to develop evidence-based solutions for conservation and human well-being outcomes. Cheng's research aims to improve understanding of the process of using scientific evidence in conservation planning and decision-making using a multi-disciplinary approach by systematically examining the role of evidence, methodology, interactions, and stakeholders to determine effective pathways from information to action to outcome. A project Cheng is pursuing at the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes along with Drs. Gerber and Anderson, is examining the public value of conservation, specifically from products of specific mechanism to move from evidence to outcomes, knowledge partnerships. Additionally, Cheng is also exploring the role that data science and technology can play in improving the use of evidence in conservation, leading to developing partnerships with data scientists and developers to design and deploy two apps that facilitate and democratize evidence uptake and use machine learning to help find evidence that matters, respectively. Cheng is a former Fulbright Fellow to Indonesia. At the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Cheng aims to contribute insight on best practices for pursuing evidence-informed policy and generating tenable, applicable, and sound science for fisheries management.

Biodiversity data needs for conservation decision support

Title: Biodiversity data needs for conservation decision support

Brief notes: Conservation decision support, particularly relevant for biodiversity data brainstorming. For decision support, good data on conservation costs and benefits (i.e., biodiversity responses) are necessary and more often than not, this type of data is usually difficult to acquire.

Gwen Iacona

Gwen Iacona

Bio: Dr. Gwen Iacona is an applied conservation scientist who uses quantitative and empirical approaches to understand how biodiversity outcomes can be improved by better decision making. Her current work aims to improve endangered species recovery by better understanding the risks and costs associated with recovery planning. Gwen specializes in using theoretical tools to study how the costs of conservation interventions influence the choice of actions and the resulting outcomes for conservation agencies. Past projects include predicting invasive plant cover, modelling protected area effectiveness, and prioritizing conservation action. Gwen currently is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University where she is working with Professor Leah Gerber. She has a PhD from the University of Tennessee, where she studied with Professor Paul Armsworth, and an MS from the University of Florida.