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Alliance of natural science and technology key to a more sustainable future

Sustainability is no longer a buzzword –  it is an essential aspect of business strategy

The technology industry is booming with unique and exciting projects aimed at aiding scientists in the field of conservation and climate change

The technology industry is booming with unique and exciting projects aimed at aiding scientists in the field of conservation and climate change

 

At the heart of the corporate world driving change is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department. CSR aims to reduce the harmful impact of business processes by integrating environmental, social and economic issues into a company’s business strategy. These roles were traditionally filled by those from fields such as business and marketing, but who better to now lead these teams than those with a background in natural sciences?

For those now undertaking a qualification in natural sciences, or even recent graduates contemplating how to utilise your degree, consider lending your skills to the technology industry. In order to implement effective and realistic long-term environmental CSR goals, experts in the field of environmental science, botany and geoscience would be a key advantage to any corporation seeking to reduce its harmful impact on the environment. 

A buoy from Huawei's TECH4ALL project located off the Irish coast. Photograph: Huawei
A buoy from Huawei's TECH4ALL project located off the Irish coast. Photograph: Huawei

A natural science degree provides students with a wealth of analytical and critical thinking skills, accompanied by an increasing emphasis on data technology and software. The application of big data to environmental protection has transformed how governments, researchers and businesses tackle conservation and develop more environmentally focused strategies. The technology industry is currently booming with unique and exciting projects aimed at aiding scientists in the field of conservation and climate change. 

Huawei’s TECH4ALL initiative supports conservation and digital inclusion projects in 18 countries, including Ireland. 

An example of one project is a real-time monitoring system capturing the sounds of illegal logging in the Philippine’s Palawan rainforest and other endangered rainforest habitats to notify park rangers  that there is illegal log felling. 

Off Ireland’s south coast, cloud, artificial intelligence and big data are  used to better understand the distribution of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) and further comprehend their communication behaviours. Machine-learning models are being trained to identify the different species’ calls in real-time, one of the first projects of its kind in Ireland.

We are at the cusp of a new and incredibly diverse relationship between technology and nature, making it a truly exciting and hopeful time for natural scientists. Technology allows us to access locations far beyond the reach of humans, it can monitor species and habitats 24/7 every season of the year. Most importantly, it grants researchers more time. 

Time is running out to combat the current biodiversity crisis: this is an interdisciplinary fight that requires the help of engineers, computer scientists, data analysts and sustainability experts. We can only win if we work together. 

Technology was once perceived as a contributor to the disconnect between humans and the natural world

Technology was once perceived as a contributor to the disconnect between humans and the natural world. This mind-set is slowly changing with the implementation of more projects harnessing technology to gain further understanding of animal behaviour. These projects  enhance the connection that humans feel towards nature, and by doing so increase the likelihood of their desire to protect the natural world around them. 

Moving forward, the separation of technology and nature is no longer viable. As natural scientists, we must embrace and champion these new technological developments that allow us to understand and interpret species and habitats on a scale far greater than what has previously been achieved. Technology no longer detaches us from nature – it connects us.

To find out more about Huawei’s TECH4ALL initiative, go to huawei.com

Rachel Byrne

Rachel Byrne, an environmental science student at Trinity College Dublin, is an a alumna of Huawei’s Seeds for the Future programme