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Turing and Darwin: Saving the environment by combining computation and human insight

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The fundamental discipline for protecting the environment is ecology, but while some areas of ecological theory are quite advanced, there are large gaps in our basic understanding. Some of these arise because it is very difficult to collect suitable data to develop and test hypotheses and models. Using a series of case studies, I will illustrate how different computational approaches, combined with parallel developments in hardware, can help fill in some of these gaps, focusing on measuring species’ distribution, abundance, and dispersal movements. I will also be building that case that computation is only truly powerful when it is guided by the large body of knowledge and insight that ecologists have built up over the last 150 years, and only useful if the results we obtain are, in turn, made available in a straightforward, digestible manner to those same ecologists so that they can take them and test them against the real world.

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