University of New Orleans computer science assistant professor Atriya Sen has been awarded a two-year, $175,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop artificial intelligence (AI) techniques for biodiversity science, in collaboration with biologists at Arizona State University.
Sen’s research will employ AI to help predict population decline of certain biological species. He proposed this project to the NSF with UNO doctoral student Rasha Alshawi.
Human-caused extinctions of biological species are accelerating rapidly. However, substantial uncertainty is often involved in predicting the extinction or population decline of species, even considering high-resolution information, Sen said. Flux in taxonomic classification is a key factor that is controversial for its impact on biodiversity conservation and policy decisions, Sen said.
"Artificial intelligence incorporating this taxonomic factor has the potential to provide novel insights into extinction risk, by projecting different contingent outcomes for distributions/extinction risks under different taxonomic perspectives," Sen said.
Developing an accurate and scalable AI for taxonomic intelligence will also be crucial to downstream computational reasoning for testing the robustness of conservation decision-making considering conflicting or uncertain taxonomies, which can be in itself sufficient to move a group of organisms in or out of consideration for legal protection as an endangered group, Sen said.
“As more nations and organizations launch biodiversity monitoring projects, coordinating these decentralized efforts will pose a major challenge that exceeds any foreseeable capacity of humans to address without assistance from AI,” Sen said.