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What if there was a giant computer model that could dramatically enhance our understanding of the environment and lead to policy decisions that better support conservation and biodiversity? A team of researchers at Microsoft Research are building just such a model that one day may eventually do just that, and have published an article today in Nature (paid access) arguing for other scientists to get on board and try doing the same.
When Drew Purves, head of Microsoft’s Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group (CEES) and his colleagues at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom, began working with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC), they didn’t know they would end up modeling life at global scales. “UNEP-WCMC is an international hub of important conservation activity, and we were pretty open-minded about exactly what we might do together,” says Purves. But they quickly realized that what was really needed was a general ecosystem model (GEM) – something that hasn’t been possible to date because of the vast scale involved. In turn, findings from a GEM could contribute to better informed policy decisions about biodiversity.
In the New York Times best-selling book Ready Player One, the protagonist powers his laptop by bicycle. While Microsoft is seeking other alternative energy sources to power the cloud, we are also big proponents of bicycle commuting at our Puget Sound campus, home to 50,000 employees. In fact, the League of American Cyclistshas deemed Microsoft a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Business among other recognitions.
At our Redmond campus, Microsoft incorporates many amenities for two-wheeled commuters, including 23 covered and secure parking cages, on-site bicycle shops with subsidized tune-ups and complimentary shower facilities at all worksites. In addition to the bicycle lanes throughout our campus, the network of regional trails in Redmond extend the safe and functional experience for our cyclists. In fact, Redmond is home to the only velodrome in Washington State and proudly calls itself the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest.
Each quarter, the company gives out an Environmental Sustainability Action Award, along with a donation to an environmental charity of the winner’s choice, in recognition of an employee or team who has shown leadership, exemplifying how Microsoft and its employees can have a positive impact on the environment. These leaders help us improve not only the way we run our business, but also the ways our products and services can make a difference for our customers, partners and society.
The award for Microsoft’s second quarter (which runs from October to December) has been given to Ludgero Gameiro, a Technical Account Manager in Portugal. Ludgero created a new offering to help customers define power management policies using System Center Configuration Manager—a great example of how technology can increase energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and decrease costs.
The New Year is upon us, and 2013 is expected to be a busy year in environmental sustainability, with GreenBiz predicting in a recent story on 2013 trends that investment in smart buildings and smart cities will continue to grow. The first few days of 2013 also included a down-to-the-wire political showdown as the fiscal cliff was narrowly averted by Congress. The environment was a winner in the final deal, which renewed the wind energy tax credit for an additional year.
Last week Microsoft Research’s Drew Purves published an article in Nature (paid access) about how computer modeling can help map the planet’s ecosystems and better understand threats to biodiversity; we blogged about the article in this post. Today our friends over at ClimateDesk published a video interview with Drew that explains in 90 seconds how computer models can predict the impact of climate change. Check it out!