Artificial Intelligence and The Environment
AI BluePrints for 16 Environmental Projects  Pioneering Sustainability

Foreward by Tierny Thys
National Geographic Explorer*, Marine Biologist, Educator and Founder of

Decades ago, the researchers whose work appears in this volume, saw into the future and knew how crucial it would be for humanity to create extensive and innovative tools for long-term monitoring of our fast changing environment. Nowhere is this more evident than in studies of our dynamic world ocean—that vast realm which hosts a mere 99% of Earth’s habitable space. Our consumption and combustion of fossil fuels as you know is not only warming the ocean but shifting its pH to be more acidic from 8.2 to 8.1 While this change may seem small, past natural shifts have taken between 5,000 to 10,000 years. We have made this shift happen in at relatively lightning speed--50-80 years.

The ocean is our bright blue planet’s dominant feature--and to this day—remains our biggest unknown. If we are to make any meaningful progress in understanding our home and preparing for our future, we really need to dive inside the ocean and maintain a 24/7 presence. Alas being air breathing, land-lubbing hominids, our undersea residency options are somewhat limited. That’s where the combination of AI, underwater robotics and remote sensing from satellites come in as our most economical and time-efficient tools for exploring and documenting large expanses of the ocean. The workshop Cindy Mason organized, where the work in this volume of papers was first presented, helped catalyze interest, action and progress in this realm as well as many others.
The workshop was truly an important gathering, both nationally and internationally and expansive in its coverage of the planet and its range of topics. It included the first underwater robot in Antarctica, a software agent that monitored for nuclear testing, software agents for storm warnings, water level monitoring, pollution monitoring, and so many things we now find essential to our future. From this workshop, it appears more scientists took up the mantle in Europe and continued the work, although it’s odd in the U.S. there was a large time span with no further research in this area.  Its helpful these papers are now to be finally published. Today with such tools at the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, Google Ocean and Caitlin Seaview's Underwater Streetview, Synthetic Aperture Radar and Sonar (SAR and SAS) imagery as well as Planetlabs, Skybox and our growing ability to image the ocean, coupled with aerial drones, wave gliders, Argo floats, slocum gliders, DIY ROVs and more---we are sailing ahead at full tilt assisted by smart machines at our sides.  As Cindy has pointed out in some of her other papers, the machine/man partnership is absolutely crucial to increase our mechanistic understanding of ocean dynamics and, perhaps even more importantly, to reinvigorate our increasingly urbanized indoor masses to care deeply about the wonders and workings of the wild.

The volume of papers represents a group of people who are definitely forward thinking and caring technologists and scientists. We need more people like this if we are to sustain ourselves into the bright future. 

With gratitude, Tierney

* Fran Hodgkins. Earth Heroes: Champions of the Ocean. Dawn Publications. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-58469-469-4.
"National Geographic explorer Tierney Thys shines new light on ocean life - Earth Science | - Ireland's Technology News Service". Retrieved 2015-06-13.