Big data for the environment


The possibility of using techniques such as machine learning to obtain fresh insights from the complex data sets gathered by the research team of WFSC Chair Prof. Nina Buchmann, Grassland Sciences, is the focus of ETH Globe Magazine article.

Measurement station at Chamau
Measurement station (Image: ETH Globe)

The most recent edition of the ETH Globe magazine (No.2/2017) highlights how data science is changing the world. Focusing the theme on agriculture, an article features the research of WFSC Chair Prof. Nina Buchmann.  

In order to discover how climate change influences the carbon storage capacity of forests, grasslands, and soils, Prof. Buchmann's group measures the flux of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The obtained high-resolution stream of data, including gas concentrations and wind speed, then reveals the extent of exchange of greenhouse gases between ecosystems and the atmosphere. This mass of data also feeds into cooperative research projects like Swiss FluxNet and European ICOS.

To analyze this massive amount of data and apply the results to climate change impacts, Buchmann comments that "we need to find a way to connect all the different data we have.” To tackle the issue, Buchmann enlisted the expertise of fellow ETH Prof. Andreas Krause, co-director of the Swiss Data Science Center (SDSC). “At the SDSC, we combine the techniques of data science such as machine learning, statistics, and information technology with the research skills of data-heavy disciplines such as life and environmental sciences.” says Krause. Buchmann adds: “Maybe machine learning will open up a whole new perspective that we have never considered before.”

Read the full article in the ETH Globe magazine here (PDF, 399 KB).

For more on the research of Prof. Nina Buchmann, see the recent Science Stories feature and Grassland Sciences website.

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Fri Jul 21 20:55:11 CEST 2017
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