Microsoft and University of WA to help endangered species

University of Western Australia’s DNA Zoo initiative has received a grant from Microsoft AI. They will allocate the funds towards preserving species that are in danger of becoming extinct.

As an initiative, DNA Zoo reaches worldwide. With the help of 55 partners, they are collecting and analysing animal DNA. With the newly-obtained funds, they will be able to deploy the scat retrieval drones to harvest the DNA samples of 40 of Australia’s endangered mammals and process them with Microsoft cloud computing. These drones effectively remove the need to do the work manually.

The collected sample data will be made open-source, which means that other researchers can benefit from their efforts as well. For instance, the researchers are still struggling with the question of why quokka’s have problems on the mainland but thrive on Rottnest Island.

Parwinder Kaur, Director of DNA Zoo and UWA Associate Professor, mentioned that the following would help automate genome sequences for analysis:

– Artificial intelligence

– Microsoft cloud

– Machine learning

In the process of analysing the mammals’ genomes, a lot of data is generated. In fact, a single genome consists of up to 3.2 GB worth of data. However, to properly understand it, 50 readings are necessary, which adds up to roughly 172 GB worth of data.

UWA is receiving the funds as part of Microsoft’s AI for Earth grant programme. Among them, the following Australian projects are also set to receive a funding boost:

– InFarm

– Australian Wildlife Conservancy

– Monash University

– Bush Heritage Australia

– Queensland University of Technology

– Griffith University