Eleven change makers, amongst them a Kenyan organization – Stephanie Dolrenry, US/Kenya, biodiversity: LINC – an AI assisted Collaborative Database for Lion Identification and Inter-Organizational Research – have been selected to receive Microsoft and National Geographic AI for Earth Innovation Grants to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to help understand and protect the planet.
These awards, organized by Microsoft and the National Geographic Society (NGS), provide funds to innovators for research on global environmental challenges in the key focus areas of climate, agriculture, water and biodiversity conservation. The grants are awarded to research teams and organizations who are working across five continents to advance scientific exploration and research on critical environmental challenges with the power of Artificial Intelligence. Each recipient is given access to Microsoft Azure and AI tools and included in the National Geographic Explorer community.
“The National Geographic Society is committed to achieving a planet in balance, and in joining forces with Microsoft on the AI for Earth Innovation Grant program, we are providing incredible potential to drive fundamental change through our unique combination of expertise in conservation, computer science, capacity building and public engagement,” said Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist of the Society. “We look forward to seeing these talented individuals create solutions to some of the most challenging environmental issues of the 21st century using the most advanced technologies available today.”
Eleven projects were selected from an impressive pool of more than 200 applicants. The high caliber of the applications prompted Microsoft and National Geographic to increase the funding for the 11 chosen projects from the initially planned $1 million to more than $1.28 million.
“Human ingenuity, especially when paired with the speed, power and scale that AI brings, is our best bet for crafting a better future for our planet and everyone on it,” said Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft Corp. “The caliber of the applications we received was outstanding and demonstrates the demand we’ve seen for these resources since we first launched AI for Earth. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with the National Geographic Society to support these new grantees in their work to explore, discover and improve the planet.”
The 11 AI for Earth Innovation Grant recipients were announced at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. They included:
Ketty Adoch, Uganda, Agriculture: Change Detection for Land Cover Mapping Around the Areas Surrounding the Murchison Falls National Park
Torsten Bondo, Denmark/Uganda, Agriculture: AI4Water: Improving Crop Water Efficiency in Uganda Using Machine Learning
Kelly Caylor, US, Water: Global Maps of Center Pivot Agriculture to Improve Estimates of Land Use Change and Water Use
Joseph Cook, UK, Climate change: AI at the Ends of the Earth
Stephanie Dolrenry, US/Kenya, Biodiversity: LINC- an AI assisted Collaborative Database for Lion Identification and Inter-Organizational Research
Gretchen Daily, US, Water: Mapping of Small Dams and Reservoirs with Earth Observation and AI
Africa Flores, Guatemala, Water: Harmful Algal Bloom Early Warning System
Solomon Hsiang, US/Sweden, Climate change: Understanding the Effect of Climate Change on Human Migration in Africa Using 1.6 million Historical Aerial Photographs
Holger Klinck, Germany/Panama, Biodiversity: The New Buzz: AI-Powered Acoustic Monitoring of Insect Communities to Advance Conservation of Tropical Rainforests
Justin Kitzes, US, Biodiversity: Developing the First Open Source, Scalable Bird Song Classification Software
Heather J. Lynch,US, Biodiversity: Coupling AI with Predictive Modeling for Real-Time Tracking of Antarctic Penguin Populations
The AI for Earth Innovation Grant program will provide award recipients with financial support of between $45,000 and $200,000 to support their innovative projects, access to Microsoft Azure and AI tools, inclusion in the National Geographic Explorer community and affiliation with National Geographic Labs, an initiative launched by National Geographic to accelerate transformative change and exponential solutions to the world’s biggest challenges by harnessing data, technology and innovation.
The grants will support the creation and deployment of open source trained models and algorithms, so they are available to other environmental researchers and innovators, and thereby have the potential to provide exponential global impact.