AI for Conservation: AI and Humans Combatting Extinction Together

Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf 

The School of Informatics and Computing’s Data to Action (D2A) lab cordially invites you to attend the first event in its speaker series. We especially welcome students to attend, and we can arrange attendance-taking and reporting for class credit at an instructor’s request.

Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf of University of Illinois Chicago will be presenting in the Data to Action Lecture Series on Friday February 22nd at 11am in the Lilly auditorium in the University Library. (lower level).

About the Lecture 

Photographs, taken by field scientists, tourists, automated cameras, and incidental photographers, are the most abundant source of data on wildlife today. Dr. Berger-Wolf will show how computational methods can be used to turn massive collections of images into high resolution information database, enabling scientific inquiry, conservation, and citizen science. Dr. Berger-Wolf will demonstrate how computational data science methods are used to collect images from online social media, detect various species of animals and even identify individuals. I will present data science methods to infer and counter biases in the ad-hoc data to provide accurate estimates of population sizes from those image data.

Dr. Berger-Wolf will show how it all can come together to a deployed system, Wildbook, a project of tech for conservation non-profit Wild Me. Dr. Berger-Wolf’s research team has built Wildbooks for over 20 species of animals, including whales (, sharks (, giraffes (, and working on elephants. In January 2016, Wildbook enabled the first ever full species (the endangered Grevy’s zebra) census using photographs taken by ordinary citizens in Kenya. The resulting numbers are now the official species census used by IUCN Red List and the research team repeated the effort in 2018, becoming the first certified census from an outside organization accepted by the Kenyan government. Wildbook is becoming the data foundation for wildlife science, conservation, and policy.

About the Speaker 

Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she heads the Computational Population Biology Lab. Berger-Wolf is also a director and co-founder of the conservation software non-profit Wild Me, home of the Wildbook project. She has received numerous awards for her research and mentoring, including the US National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Association for Women in Science Chicago Innovator Award, and the UIC Mentor of the Year Award.

About Data to Action

The Data to Action (DATA) Lab is an interdisciplinary team of SoIC faculty and student researchers who study the impact of data practices and labor in a variety of contexts. Data are empowering artifacts that, when properly collected, aggregated, managed, and analyzed, have immense value. Data can bring tangible reward to individuals, communities, organizations, and businesses. Our work characterizes data not only as a statistical input or technological byproduct, but as a socio-technical construction with inherent contradictions, problems, and ethical implications.

Informal Gathering: There is another opportunity to informally interact with Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf, from 9:30 am to 10:30 am on Friday 22nd at IT 266. Students and faculty from other department across the campus are welcome to attend. Right refreshment and coffee will be served.