As we celebrate Earth Day while practicing social distancing this year, we'll delve into inspiring stories of Humans of IT who leverage their tech superpowers to protect our forests. Read on to learn the story of Bonnie Lei, Head of Global Strategic Partnerships in Microsoft’s AI for Earth program. Bonnie shares her personal experience and unique skills to help empower partners around the globe using AI to protect our planet.
South Africa, Myanmar, Mongolia- these are just some of the many countries Bonnie has traveled to in her previous life as a conservation biologist, working to stem the tide of climate change for the world’s most at-risk wildlife species, as well as human communities. Today, she's the Head of Global Strategic Partnerships in the Microsoft AI for Earth Program.
This is her story:
Having the privilege of working with developing communities made it very clear to me that there are incredibly uneven impacts of climate change. In developed countries, while our lives are not hugely affected on a day to day basis, communities in developing countries face severe environmental and economic repercussions. Although they aren’t the biggest contributors to climate change, they’re unfortunately hurt the most.
The people I've met in the developing world are always in the forefront of my mind as I continue my commitment to protect the environment. Today, that work is focused on leading grants and strategic partnerships for Microsoft’s AI for Earth program.
AI for Earth is dedicated to building a Planetary Computer, a centralized platform powered by Azure to help environmentalists monitor, model and manage Earth’s natural resources. It will apply enormous computing power and advanced AI tools to trillions of data points around the globe, resulting in actionable insights. To bring the Planetary Computer to life, we are partnering with key organizations and providing grants to environmental researchers working on the frontlines. To date, we have supported more than 500 organizations in over 80 countries globally.
I’ll share one example of how technology can have incredible impact. When I worked in Myanmar on a program to protect endangered shark and ray species, I remember the devastation of encountering large illegal catches too late – when the fish were already captured and killed. It takes the speed and scale of technological tools to give us a chance at conserving at-risk biodiversity. It makes me especially proud of the work that AI for Earth partner OceanMind is doing, applying AI algorithms to the movement of sea vessels to detect suspicious and potentially illegal fishing behavior.
While Earth Day 2020 is now over, the work to protect our planet carries on. We need to live each day as if it were Earth Day and actively contribute to sustain all life on this planet.
As Humans of IT, we all have a responsibility to use our tech skills and knowledge to help conserve this planet we call home. Get more insights from conservationists like Bonnie as you celebrate Earth Day at home this year, and learn how you can take action at Microsoft In Culture.
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