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EY Picks Winning AI Models That Use Technology To Help Locate and Protect Biodiversity

Originally published at EY is a Hall of Fame company.


Biodiversity is fundamental to the proper functioning of ecosystems and the planet’s future. The winning models from this year’s Better Working World Data Challenge (the Challenge) will help scientists, policymakers and governments reduce the cost and time required to locate biodiversity, while also improving accuracy through artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

This year’s winners built species distribution models focusing specifically on frogs using field data, satellite imagery from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and datasets from the Microsoft Planetary Computer and other resources. Since frogs are an indicator species, they are a go-to for scientists researching environmental health of a particular ecosystem. Species distribution models are one of the most widely used ecological tools, a cornerstone of environmental regulation and conservation in many countries worldwide.

The winners, selected by a panel of judges from the EY organization, NASA, Microsoft and members of the scientific community, were announced at an awards ceremony in London on 20 July 2022.

Team Train Test Split from India, team Sweet Frog from the US and team Ze Xuan Ma from Singapore were named winners across the Local Frog Discovery, Global Frog Discovery and Frog Counting challenges respectively.

“There has been another influx of exceptional talent this year and I’m proud to see the Challenge attracting young scientists that want to use their tech skills for good. This year’s winning models have the potential to help improve assessments of extinction risk and conservation action plans in coming years, which has great potential to inform conservation policy and action in the future,” says Beatriz Sanz Sáiz, EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader.

“We are proud to collaborate with EY on the Better Working World Data Challenge and to provide participants access to datasets from the Microsoft Planetary Computer,” says Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño, PhD, Planetary Computer, Microsoft. “We’re excited to see ambitious and talented young data scientists participate in programs like this and applaud the hard work that will help scientists to address some of the most challenging environmental issues.”

“Collaborations like this are pivotal to addressing the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and improving human wellbeing. The models created through the Challenge can help overcome spatial gaps in scientific knowledge, for example by identifying under-surveyed areas that might harbor a poorly known or threatened species. They also have huge potential for helping conservationists to better understand the extinction risk of species and to protect them and the places they need to thrive,” says Kelsey Neam, Program Officer – IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group Red List Authority and Biodiversity Assessments Coordinator – Re:wild.

The Challenge, part of the EY organization’s commitment to innovate and use technology to address some of the world’s largest environmental and climate change problems, is open to students and early-career data scientists from around the world. The 2022 competition saw registrations from more than 9,000 applicants across more than 100 countries. Throughout the challenge, participants used the Microsoft Azure cloud platform along with satellite imagery provided by NASA to create the winning algorithms.

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