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.
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.