Data & Analytics

WWF and Atos join together on AI-powered conservation efforts

Three projects include monitoring biodiversity “hotspots,” predicting outbreaks, and hacking a popular environmental tool.
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The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and IT-services provider Atos announced a three-year partnership and three-pack of projects that combine info analysis and ecological observation. The collab, shared publicly on Nov. 22, will focus on efforts that include ecosystem monitoring, epidemic prediction, and improvement of tech tools.

In its press release and press briefing, Atos described the three projects:

  • Monitoring biodiversity. Using satellite data, Atos’s algorithms will “identify irregular trends” in habitats and variety of life. One pilot program analyzes the grasslands and savannahs in East Africa, and algorithms have been trained on images in the area to understand and identify structures and objects like poachers’ trucks, according to Andy Wallace, client innovation manager at Atos, who spoke with attendees during the presentation portion of the public announcement.

“By understanding hotpots where there is change, then we can begin to understand where human activity might be encroaching into protected areas,” Wallace said.

  • Predicting outbreaks. Atos’s machine-learning systems will also forecast hotspots for zoonoses, or diseases that move between species. The Atos-developed “zoonotic disease prediction algorithm” uses an arkload of information to spot troubling patterns: infrastructure and demographic data, along with environmental, animal and human health, historical, and pathogen information.

“We can then try to understand how these factors will come together not to predict new diseases themselves, but to begin to predict the factors that come together so that we can help those authorities that are monitoring and managing these areas to put a point on a map and really understand where the risk is greatest,” Wallace said during the presentation. A pilot effort is being developed for the Mekong basin, according to Atos.

  • Improving tools. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) already provides ecological data to 50,000 agents in 80 countries. Atos wants to start up in-company hackathons, according to Wallace, to improve dashboards and visualization options to illustrate threats like deforestation.

Researchers are increasingly turning to AI to support environmental efforts. One example: Software developer Conservation AI, which uses drone and other imagery to identify humans, animals, and manufactured objects, has partnered with the Animal and Plant Health Agency in the UK, the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa, and other organizations to prevent poaching and safeguard ecosystems, according to its site.

WWF aims to use Atos’s digital-analytics capabilities to support its overall mission of nature conservation and reduction of threats to Earth’s biodiversity.

“We cannot perform conservation results without data and without proper data uptake. We really need that,” Veronique Andrieux, CEO of WWF France, said at a press briefing before the announcement.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.