Conservation International discovers two new species using big data analytics

Conservation International (CI) has found two new species and identified one that is close to extinction using data analytics software from Hewlett-Packard (HP).


Conservation International (CI) has found two new species and identified one that is close to extinction using data analytics software from Hewlett-Packard (HP).

CI, a non-profit organisation headquartered in the US that focuses on protecting nature and biodiversity, has unveiled some of the results achieved through a partnership with HP, dubbed ‘HP Earth Insights’, which was set up at the end of last year.

The project has helped CI identify significant declines in 60 (equivalent to 22 percent) of 275 species it has been monitoring since 2009. It has also discovered two new species and uncovered one that is approaching extinction, namely the sun bear, a bear found in the tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia.

By using big data analytics the charity has found that the rainforest is diminishing by 118 square miles every year, equivalent to one football field every second, according to Jonathan Dove, managing director for HP’s transformation and modernisation services in the Americas.

This insight is particularly significant given that the tropical rainforest provides 40 percent of the world’s oxygen and is home to half of the plants and animals in the world today, Dove explained.

Speaking at HP Discover in Vegas, Dove said that these sorts of insights help CI to demonstrate the need for policy changes when it speaks to government officials and policy makers.

CI scientists are located in 16 different tropical areas in 14 countries across four continents. Some of the locations take days to get to and cover huge land areas, so cameras are set up to capture migrating species and climate sensors record changes to the climate, Dove said.

To help process this information, HP provided a cloud-based solution comprising hardware, enterprise services and its Vertica analytics software, which is designed to analyse correlations across millions of data sets in near real-time.

“We had to figure out a meaningful way to present all this data so we created the wildlife picture index, which provides an early warning system for species that need immediate help.

“It gave scientists a way to deep dive into specific species and see what was happening to the climate in a particular area at a specific time…this allows scientists to drill down into the data and make detailed, informed decisions,” Dove explained.

By introducing the new solution CI improved its compute time by over 89 percent and now a single person can get insights from its data in a few hours, compared to the three to four months it previously took for an entire team to do data analysis, according to Dove.

HP is currently developing facial recognition technology for the project so that animal species can be categorised automatically instead of manually by scientists.

“When I look at this project, we were able to take real-life solutions for big data and use it to help save the planet,” said Dove.

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