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In an attempt to combat the Great Chinese Famine in the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered the cull of huge numbers of sparrows in order to preserve the grain that comprised the majority of their diet, but in the absence of sparrows, the insect population exploded, decimating crops and leading to the death of millions of people; this is just one example of ecological restoration gone wrong, and the catastrophic consequences of uninformed action.

With the use of big data analytics and machine learning tools, Thomas Crowther, Ph.D. is making the most of data that was previously unavailable to us—data that will allow us to make better, more ecologically-informed decisions that will aid in the restoration of the planet’s ecosystems and circumvent the potentially disastrous consequences of ecological reform gone wrong. Whether ‘restoration’ means changing the composition of soils, removing farm animals from sections of land in order to allow for the return of natural vegetation, or simply planting trees will depend on the geographical location in question and the nature of the ecosystem present.

The Crowther Lab app is informing various restoration efforts around the world by allowing them to select and zoom in on a particular geographical region, and identify which form of action would best serve the ecological system. “We are a single location that brings together the full holistic ecological status of the system. There are lots of researchers around world working on soil microbes, soil bacteria, trees, etc., and we are providing a platform where we bring all of that information together,” explains Dr. Crowther.

Press play to hear the full conversation and learn more about ongoing research and restoration efforts by visiting crowtherlab.com

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