Artificial Intelligence and Conservation

Title Card with green digital tree

Series Overview

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has left the lab and now affects many aspects of our lives - from our smart phones automatically categorizing the photos we take to automated resume readers which sort us into viable and non-viable job candidates. Conservation organizations like WWF have long used AI to monitor the health of wildlife, forests, and other ecosystems, and just like everywhere else, new applications of AI are accelerating our ability to understand the world around us.

The series will focus on how AI is being used to support conservation efforts. The series will discuss the past, present and future of how these technologies advance sustainability, with a focus on the future, and an eye on both the upsides and the risks of these technologies in a conservation context.

Seminar 1

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation

October 11, 2022 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET

The launch of the series will explore the history of AI in conservation. Speaker, Bistra Dilkina will kick us off with a history of AI and conservation, touching on how she got involved and the breadth of the approaches happening now.

Speaker: Bistra Dilkina, Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Southern California



Seminar 2

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Prediction

October 31, 2022 | 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM ET

AI can be used to predict the optimal route for rangers to patrol and where deforestation is likely to occur next. Fei Fang, the creator of the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) system, will describe how she is using AI to identify news that might have conservation impacts, and how PAWS has been deployed to stymie poachers.

Speaker: Dr. Fei Fang, Assistant Professor at the Software and Societal Systems Department, Carnegie Mellon University



Seminar 3

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Ethics

November 16, 2022 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET

Many examples of unethical AI exist - including resume filters that are biased against women and facial recognition systems which perform worse when identifying people with darker skin. Conservation must be ethical to be effective, and the application of AI to the conservation space has its own challenges.

Speaker: Dr. Renee Sieber, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, McGill University

Moderator: Dr. Elizabeth Bondi-Kelly, Incoming Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan



Seminar 4

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Sensor Integration

January 12, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET

Motion sensitive cameras, bioacoustics monitors, and environmental DNA are just a few of the types of sensors we’ve leveraged to monitor the Earth and biosphere. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to pull signals from all these data streams and is increasingly leveraged to integrate data. This session will focus on the use of AI in sensors and in particular how they’re being combined to form a holistic picture of our environment.

Dr. Sara Beery, Incoming Assistant Professor, MIT EECS
Dr. Emmanuel Dufourq, AIMS Canadian Junior Research Chair in Climate Science
Dr. Wilfried Thuiller, Senior Research Scientist, CNRS



Seminar 5

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Indigenous AI

February 7, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET

Indigenous peoples have been leveraging technology to achieve their conservation goals, in step with conservation trends and efforts more broadly. However, there are deep histories of exclusion, underrepresentation, and mistreatment of Indigenous communities that must be acknowledged and eliminated moving forward. Global commitments from the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially Free Prior and Informed Consent, should be considered and applied in data being gathered for AI efforts alongside the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. Furthermore ownership or authority over Indigenous and local data must be respected. This session will cover some of the amazing AI work being done by Indigenous groups and will touch on issues such as data sovereignty and how those impact the growth and application of AI techniques.

Michael Running Wolf, Indigenous AI
Mason Grimshaw, Earth Genome



Seminar 6

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Data Integration

March 2, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET

In our previous session on sensors we talked about integrating sensor data, but there are lots of other kinds of data that need to be integrated. Unfortunately, they’re all collected using different standards and terms, and the models that use the data all need the information to come in specific forms. Hence the need for data integration. In this seminar, we’ll speak with Ferdinando Villa from the Basque Center for Climate Change about ARIES - a system he and his team have built for data integration partially involving symbolic AI.

Dr. Ferdinando Villa, Research Professor, Basque Centre for Climate Change



Seminar 7

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Systems/Causality

April 13, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET

AI is great for pulling signal out of noisy data, for classification, and for prediction. It can help us tell what something is and how it might change over time. But, can AI help us understand why something happens? In conservation, we want to understand what actions we can take to bring about resilient nature and communities. There are thousands of conservation efforts across the globe - some succeed, others don’t. Can AI help us understand what works and why? This webinar will cover the state of the art of AI based causal reasoning and its applications to sustainability.

Lily Xu, PhD Student, Harvard University



Seminar 8

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Decision Support

April 25, 2023 | 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM ET

Monitoring the environment is necessary but not sufficient for creating and maintaining a world in which humans live in harmony with the rest of nature. The data and insights collected must be put into frameworks that support concrete decision making. This session will investigate the role of artificial intelligence in decision support systems, focusing on opportunities for greater integration of AI.

Dr. Carlos Souza, Senior Research Associate, IMAZON
Jorn Dallinga, Forest Foresight Program Manager, WWF-NL



Seminar 9

Artificial Intelligence and Conservation: Closing

May 16, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET

We covered a great number of applications of AI for conservation in the past 8 seminars. Now it’s time to think about what’s next. In particular, what problems avail themselves to AI solutions, and how can people get involved in identifying and implementing those solutions. We’ll discuss these topics and other with Tanya Berger-Wolf and Dan Morris.

Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf, Professor and Director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute, Ohio State University
Dr. Dan Morris, Research Scientist, Google