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AI in Conservation

by Laura Mercure


Artificial Intelligence has been hailed as the future savior of the world, and condemned as responsible for ending the world. But what is it really and how can it impact conservation efforts? According to IBM.com, Artificial Intelligence is the “field [of science] which combines computer science and robust datasets to enable problem solving,” meaning that with a large enough sample of data, scientists can predict future outcomes.


These outcomes have a myriad of potential uses: helping someone tweak their resume, writing scripts (see the Writer’s Guild of America Strike), making medical diagnoses, and creating all of the images in this article. Scientists at nonprofit organizations, NGOs and government entities alike use AI and available data to improve everything from poaching and biodiversity to material recycling and K-12 education.


PAWS (Protection Assistance for Wildlife Survival) is an initiative that uses AI to estimate where poachers are likely to place elephant, tiger, and other traps in national parks across Africa and Asia. The Rangers cannot adequately search these spaces because of the sheer size. The Rangers at Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia used the PAWS Software and doubled the number of snare traps they found and confiscated in the first month alone. (Source: https://teamcore.seas.harvard.edu/ai-conservation)


Kew Gardens, in collaboration with the University of Fribourg created AI software aimed at finding areas that maximize biodiversity protection. Rather than focusing on areas that have the most biodiversity currently and protecting those, the program looks for areas where the risk of extinction is greatest, as well as the potential tradeoffs of cost and benefits. This program has saved an estimated 26% more species than random protection policies.


Over 150 million tons of textile waste is generated worldwide every year. Refiberd, a California-based, women-run startup is using hyperspectral imaging AI to identify and sort through the donated textiles they receive in order to efficiently recycle the materials. You can read all about their process here: https://refiberd.com/technology/.



According to their website, Refiberd can recycle up to 70% of the textile waste they receive.


AI is also impacting education for K-12 students. There are programs that monitor educational metrics offering chat popups with personalized on-the-spot advice. There are also programs that tailor subjects to the student’s interests to keep them invested. AI can also help standardize education by providing students with equal access to resources and shrinking the digital divide.





Here at the Hendricks Foundation, we know that engaging children with technology early is crucial to building a lifelong love of learning. Please consider donating your used computers and laptops computers. The children who receive these computers will be responsible for whatever is next on the technological landscape, but we need your help to get them there.


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