We live at the intersection of two unprecedented ages. The first is of information and ubiquitous computing. The second is the Anthropocene – a new geological age characterized by exponentially negative and rapid impacts of human activities on earth’s nature systems. I leverage the architecture of the information age to counter the Anthropocene.

I am a scientist at Microsoft Research where I work on computational techniques for monitoring, modeling, and managing earth’s natural environments. In 2015 I co-founded the Nature + Computing group, a diverse collection of scientists drawn from Microsoft Research who develop and apply the tools of data science to scientific data and whose research interests are focused on the study of nature.

I am committed to using the tools of computer science to tackle some of the hardest challenges in environmental sustainability, including conserving biodiversity, ensuring robust food systems, and mitigating climate change. I lead Microsoft Research’s engagements on environmental sustainability, and my work includes aspects of what makes Microsoft Research so special – from artificial intelligence and machine learning to software and hardware development.

Advisory Roles, Partnerships, Fellowships, Awards

I developed and lead Microsoft’s partnership with the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, serving on the IUCN Red List Committee and chairing the Red List Informatics Working Group. I am a member of the Ecological Society of America’s US steering committee for the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and serve on the Strategic Advisory Council for NatureServe, the External Advisory Board for the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, and the United States Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. I have previously served in advisory roles for the European Biodiversity Observation Network, the Global Environmental Facility, and for Natural England and as the ‘Advisor on Science and Innovation’ at the United Nations Environmental Program – World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC).

I am currently an Honorary Conservation Fellow at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and am a past Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology (DICE) . In 2013 I received the Society for Conservation Biology’s ‘Early Career Award’, and in 2015 shared their ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ with all the past and present members of the IUCN Red List Committee.

I co-founded the Technology for Nature initiative, an early online effort with a mission to rapidly scale up the global conservation response through technology innovations and have been involved in many subsequent efforts to do just that.


I hold a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completed my PhD in Ecology from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and am a former Peace Corps volunteer (Malawi).

Click here for Free and Open Access to Recent Science Policy Forum ‘Filling in biodiversity threat gaps’ by Joppa et al.


Trade-offs and Decision Making

Established: July 13, 2014

Project focussed on quantifying the economic and environmental, trade-offs and synergies that arise under land use change. Summary The number of environmental layers, both from observation and modelling, has grown over the past few decades. A key intended use of these data is to support decision making and environmental planning. We seek to determine the current outcomes from deforestation and how those outcomes may be affected via different interventions. This project is in the early stages of development…

Conservation Mapping

Established: July 9, 2014

Microsoft research developed a tool in collaboration with IUCN, SSC and UAL, to allow the rapid mapping and assessment of species, threats to species and conservation interventions. it is hoped that this tool will improve bottom up conservation monitoring. RedList assessments and bottom-up conservation mapping   The Conservation Mapping Tool allows web based, collaborative, mapping and assessment of species, threats to species and conservation interventions.   It is hoped that the tool will  transform the…


Established: February 12, 2014

Use consumer video equipment to trace animal movement. Zootracer is software developed at Microsoft Research, capable of accurately tracking multiple, unmarked, interacting individuals in arbitrary video footage. As the software is independent of recording devices, the user may provide recordings from any habitat type. With its intended ability to robustly cope with variations in lighting, camera movement and changes in object appearance, Zootracer represents a step forward in facilitating the collection and analysis of behaviour…

Distribution Modeller

Established: February 27, 2013

Since its inception, the Computational Science group has undertaken research and development into new modelling platforms for computational science. The CEESDM project detailed here evolved from the Computational Science Studio project (mentioned in this article) and then evolved into the Altai project. The Altai project then evolved into the Modelling Environment project, the 4th generation of modelling environment being developed by the group (coming soon...). Platform and Computational Experiment for Smith et al. (2015) "Inferred…

Project CLEO

Established: January 18, 2013

The goal of project CLEO is to develop devices and services to encourage and enable participatory sensing and citizen scientists. A core technology developed in the project is to make location sensing energy efficient, so devices can be small and light, sample more frequently, and of low cost. The approach is called Cloud-Offloaded GPS (or CO-GPS). News: Mobile Location Sensing Tutorial at ACM MobiSys 2013, June 25th, 2013, Taipei. Jie Liu gave a keynote address at…














AI for Earth Link description

AI for Earth


July 18, 2017


Tanya Berger-Wolf; Carla Gomes; Milind Tambe


University of Illinois at Chicago; Cornell University; University of Southern California



Conservation: Data Deluge or Drought? – World Wildlife Fund Fuller Symposium Keynote

Conservation: Data Deluge or Drought? – World Wildlife Fund Fuller Symposium Panel

US Department of Agriculture Innovation Challenge

Microsoft Technology Fair – CSPAN

NIMBioS – NSF Career Path seminar

Madingley Model: A new tool for conservation science

Innovation at Microsoft Research – Bloomberg TV

Connecting Environmental and Computer Science – MSR Luminaries Series Interview

A Prediction Engine for the Planet – MSRC ResearchNext Keynote

Film, Identify, Track, Tag, Sense, Fly – MSR TechFest Demo

Technology for Nature – 2013 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibit Interview

Technology for Nature – 2013 MSRC ResearchNext

Interview with eNCA News (South Africa) on Mataki devices

Geo-Database Applications at the Speed of Thought – 2013 MSRC ResearchNext Demo (Piero Visconti)

Microsoft – IUCN Red List Partnership Press Conference (starts at 00:02:10)

New Tools for Environmental Science – MSR Connections Lecture (starts at 00:02:30)


Troubling Trends in the Use of Scientific Software (Science Magazine podcast, starts at 00:13:00)

Popular Writing

AI for Earth (The Guardian)

Beware the Black Box of Scientific Software (Scientific Computing Magazine)

Protect a sixth of the land, protect two thirds of the species (The Conversation)

Electronic Eyes in the Wild (Rolex Awards)

A Wild Success: The Endangered Species Act at 40 (link takes you to book download)

Catching up with… (UW Madison CALS Magazine)

Microsoft Media Coverage

Microsoft News Center – Research predictions for 2016 and 2026

Microsoft News Center – Conservation in the Cloud

Microsoft Fire Hose – Royal Visit

Microsoft Fire Hose – Aichi Targets

Microsoft Enterprise Insights – Mapping Endangered Species

Science @ Microsoft – How many species?

Inside Microsoft Research – MSR Luminaries

Inside Microsoft Research – Royal Society

Inside Microsoft Research – Aichi Targets

Inside Microsoft Research – Animal Tracking

Inside Microsoft Research – IUCN Partnership