Harnessing the Power of AI & Data Science to Address Ecological Challenges

If a tree falls in the forest, it may be a sign of something more drastic affecting the greater environment. By synthesizing Data Science and Biological approaches, however, UF is helping to combat climate change and better manage national forests.

Ecologists, for years, have tracked the changes in forests and ecosystems through monitoring characteristics of individual trees–a task that has historically required intensive, time-consuming research trips into the field. Naturalists and scientists still use field notebooks, but to those analog tools they are now adding Artificial Intelligence.

FINS faculty – Drs. Alina Zare (ECE) and Daisy Wang (CISE)– along with Dr. Stephanie Bohlman of the UF School of Forest, Fisheries and Geomatics Sciences, and Aditya Singh in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, comprise a formidable multidisciplinary research team that is integrating Data science with Trees and Remote Sensing (IDTReeS) to address ecological challenges such how to make more informed decisions about forest management and responses to climate change.

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which UF is a leader in, supplies the team with photographic data from flyovers of forest ecosystems ranging from Puerto Rico to Alaska. The team then uses these photographs to create algorithms identifying millions of individual trees. Ultimately, this research goes towards tracking changes in forests over time that influence carbon storage, economics, and ecosystem services.

Read more about this groundbreaking research HERE.

Originally published by UF Explore Magazine, September 2, 2021