Using satellite imagery and AI to discern the effects of having a protected area in your backyard, while improving the interface between scientists and the digital world


There are three aspects to my talk, namely focussed on improving current status in (a) sustainable conservation, (b) data science tools, and (c) inter-relationships between researchers and data science professionals. These objectives are bundled together in a multi-country project funded by the Belmont Forum, PARSEC “Building new tools for data sharing and reuse through a transnational investigation of the socio-economic impacts of protected areas”. Concerns about the social and economic consequences of conservation initiatives, such as the creation of protected areas to meet international biodiversity targets, has resulted in a flurry of recent publications. These report various ways of approaching the emerging challenge of ensuring protected areas are sustainably embedded in their surrounding societies. The synthesis science team in the PARSEC project is using global health and economic status surveys, together with satellite image analysis and artificial intelligence to examine changes in the socioeconomic conditions of 200 rural villages across the globe, with and without proximity to protected areas. The research data workflow followed by the synthesis team will be shadowed by a data science team. This team is engaging in a dialogue with the researchers, learning their strengths, understanding, and readiness to engage in the many emerging demands of open data, improving ways to assist them in the process. In addition, in association with organisations such as ORCID, DataCITE, and the Research Data Alliance, the data team will be developing and testing new tools to better record activity and obtain credit for digital product delivery that will be carried forward beyond the PARSEC project.


Honorary Assoc. Prof. Alison Specht has a deep interest and expertise in facilitating learning and supporting multi-disciplinary collaboration in the environmental and data sciences. After a career as a research academic, she became one of the first appointees to the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network ( and more recently was Director of the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB) in France. In these positions she was able to expand her capabilities in facilitating trans-disciplinary, convergent research between scientists, policy-makers and managers to improve environmental outcomes, and in improving data management and preservation. She established and is a core partner of the International Synthesis Consortium ( and is on the advisory committee of the Canadian Synthesis Centre, CIEE/ICEE and assisted the establishment of the new synthesis centre in Brazil, SINBIOSE. She has been a member of the DataONE ( Usability and Assessment Working Group since its inception in 2010, is a member of several Research Data Alliance working groups, and is currently a co-leader of a Belmont Forum project, PARSEC, one of three Science-driven e-Infrastructure Innovation projects dedicated to bridging the gaps between environmental scientists and data scientists.


Room 314, Steele Building (#03)