Much of the Earth is rapidly being converted to human design.
Consider the replacement of forests, wetlands and other important areas by farms, industry and human settlement. Commercial fishing has degraded many areas in the oceans; pollution from micro-plastics and other sources threatens a number of species; and large areas of the coral reefs that support much of ocean life are dying. The temperatures recorded at the polar regions have been rising. Rather than making climate change a topic for political debate, we need to be able to monitor precisely the environment around us to detect possible changes, evaluate their impact and design needed interventions.
Fortunately, there are many new and nascent data sources that can be leveraged: satellite remote sensing, ground monitoring stations based on soundscape and genomic measurements that track biodiversity and evolution. Harnessing this data presents major challenges. For example, comparing data across different sensing mechanisms and across spatial scales remains difficult. It is also hard to understand whether an extreme observation is just a random occurrence of rare events or if the rare events are becoming more frequent. The collaborations fostered by SDS will accelerate and potentiate the work of Stanford scientists in this area.
Examples of faculty working in the area include Gretchen Daily, Fiorenza Micheli, Stephen Palumbi, Stefano Ermon and Trevor Hastie.