From IBM big data to conservation big data

After a wonderful 19 year journey with IBM, I started a new chapter with Species360 in early July. During my last year with IBM, I had the opportunity to work on some fascinating cognitive big data projects focused on sustainability. I led a team to prototype a climate action advisor tool leveraging IBM Watson, wrote a thought leadership piece on how AI is helping the environment, and, for one of my last projects, sought a way to harness AI technologies to protect the forests for future generations – an area of personal passion. For this project, the “Cognitive Boreal Forest”, I convened experts from academia, the IBM Center for Advanced Learning and IBM Research to develop a proposal for a research collaboration focused on environmental use cases that leverage AI and IoT technologies.

So I’m very excited about the conservation big data treasure that my new team manages. Although it may not be well known, Species360 is a non-profit NGO that’s been around since 1974. It was first started as an international species inventory system through a partnership between 55 zoos in Europe and the United States. Today, over 1050 zoos, aquariums and other wildlife organizations in 90+ countries are members. The data has grown to cover 22k species and includes over 74M medical records on nearly 10M animals.

Dr. Dalia Conde
Dr. Dalia Conde

I’m not the only one excited by potential of this data. I had the opportunity to speak with the new Director of Science, Dr. Dalia Conde, when I was at the team retreat in July. Dalia started out as a field biologist and quickly came to realize how challenging it is to obtain complete data on a species, particularly when limiting the data only to field studies. Some species, such as jaguars, are so elusive that it’s hard to gather complete data on them. When she discovered the Species360 ZIMS data, she became passionate in her pursuit of filling the knowledge gaps on species through ZIMS data.

Learn more about her journey toward conservation data science in my full interview with her on the Species360 blog.


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