Microsoft Research creates ecosystem model for animals

Microsoft Research has its hands in a number of different projects and today one of them came to light that could help scientists better understand the natural environment. A Microsoft Research team in the UK has been working with the United Nations to create what has been called a general ecosystem model, or GEM.

Microsoft's Green Blog says that developing a version of a GEM hasn't been possible in the past simply due to the massive scale involved in creating such a model. However, the Microsoft Research team has been working on the last two years on a prototype called the Madingley Model. The team used their experience in creating another computational mode for the global carbon cycle as the basis for this even bigger project.

Microsoft states:

With this as starting point, they set out to model all animal life too: herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores, of all sizes, on land in the sea. The Computational Ecology group were in a unique position to do this, because the group includes actual ecologists (like Purves), doing novel research within Microsoft Research itself. In addition, they’re developing novel software tools for doing this kind of science. That has helped the team as it’s come up against all kinds of computational and technical challenges. Nonetheless, the model’s outputs have been widely consistent with current understandings of ecosystems.

The team has now published an article detailing their work in the scientific journal, Nature, along with a request for other scientists to work on their own GEM models.

Source: Microsoft
Giraffe image via Shutterstock

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12 Comments

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M_Lyons10 said,
Alright, so maybe it's me... But what's the benefit of this?

Every now and then they like to push technology in directions that aren't destined for a price tag on a shelf in a Best Buy just to make people on technology blogs whine. I enjoy it.

Also, these exercises in technology set new baselines for the 'possible'. New techniques, algorithms, and uses for existing technology are discovered and refined in the process, and all the while, skills are honed. All of this contributes to a healthy foundation for future development that nobody is equipped to predict right now. So I say just sit back and enjoy it for what it is: cool shiz.

Microsoft seriously needs to concentrate their focus on computer/tablet/phone/car system/gaming integration ecosystem not the animals. right now Ms Sync in cars doesn't support windows phones for contact transfer and so forth. and yet they are fooling around.

S3P€hR said,
Microsoft seriously needs to concentrate their focus on computer/tablet/phone/car system/gaming integration ecosystem not the animals. right now Ms Sync in cars doesn't support windows phones for contact transfer and so forth. and yet they are fooling around.
Surely its a terrible idea to walk and chew gum at the same time. Just focus on walking!

MrHumpty said,
Surely its a terrible idea to walk and chew gum at the same time. Just focus on walking!

If you have problems walking and is in the process of rehabilitation then yes, you should probably not walk and chew gum at the same time. Just focus on walking properly again.

MrHumpty said,
Surely its a terrible idea to walk and chew gum at the same time. Just focus on walking!

Don't get me wrong I like the research and what they do is really good. In fact one of the main reasons I like about Microsoft is their openness and R&D budget. 9.8 billion dollars alone last year for R&D, that's more than apple+google both but they need to shape their research in someways. you can research about anything. but what do they do? they are software/services/devices company not zoo

S3P€hR said,
Microsoft seriously needs to concentrate their focus on computer/tablet/phone/car system/gaming integration ecosystem not the animals. right now Ms Sync in cars doesn't support windows phones for contact transfer and so forth. and yet they are fooling around.

I suppose you also think universities should focus on teaching students in classrooms instead of spending money on the sort of research projects that gave us, oh, I don't know...

The Internet.

'Side' research projects are some of the most important things humanity does. People branch out. Technology does crazy things. Go cry to a diary.

Think of it as a public relations expense.

OK, so funding research into ecology doesn't directly sell any more WinRT tablets or Windows Phones. But neither does donating money to the United Way of King County (Washington). It's just part of being a good corporate citizen.

Just because other companies are stingy with donations doesn't mean that Microsoft has to follow their example.

S3P€hR said,

Don't get me wrong I like the research and what they do is really good. In fact one of the main reasons I like about Microsoft is their openness and R&D budget. 9.8 billion dollars alone last year for R&D, that's more than apple+google both but they need to shape their research in someways. you can research about anything. but what do they do? they are software/services/devices company not zoo
I'm sure you've looked at the results of that R&D and can report, with confidence, that the majority of their R&D Budget is spent on projects that never yield any value for their bottom line. Or, more than likely, someone in charge of that 9.8B makes sure that they aren't all "Zoo" projects.

Honestly, you're amusing.