Tag Archives: environment

CANCELLED-Dr Mike Shanahan – How fig trees can save the planet

Unfortunately tonight’s planned talk has been rescheduled to August due to disruption following the recent terrorist attack in nearby Borough Market. However, the Old King’s Head should be reopened today and some of the PubSci regulars will be there to socialise.

On Wednesday 7th June we’re delighted to welcome Dr Mike Shanahan, a freelance writer and illustrator with a research background in rainforest ecology, who will be talking about the ecological and cultural importance of fig trees.

FigTree

Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees. As Mike will explain, fig trees could help restore lost rainforests, conserve wildlife and tackle climate change. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Mike’s book Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future was published in 2016 – copies will be available on the night if you fancy getting the detailed inside scoop.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs – we hope to see you there!

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Dr Helen Mayfield – can artificial intelligence save the rainforest?

On Wednesday 3rd August we’re pleased to welcome Dr Helen Mayfield, who has a PhD in mapping science and comes from an IT background, with an active interest in conservation and environmental issues. Her broad research interests are in how computer science and technological advances can help us solve or better understand environmental problems.

Helen Mayfield

We are entering the Anthropocene, a new geological age characterised by mass extinctions and unprecedented pressures on our natural resources.  At the same time technology is progressing at full speed, providing us with a whole new set of tools to help us navigate this brave new world. Yet many environmental management practitioners still rely on the tried and trusted methods that they’re comfortable with.

Helen’s work looks at how we can use machine learning to help us solve environmental management problems. We aim to shed some light on artificial intelligence and demystify a few of the common machine learning techniques, discussing  how they might serve us better than the standard statistical models that are so commonly used (no formulas, promise!). To keep the balance we will also look at some of the pitfalls of techniques such as artificial neural networks to help us consider when NOT to use them.  Being both one of the biggest environmental threats we face, as well as a terribly complicated issue, deforestation analysis provides the perfect case study for doing this.  By taking advantage of the plethora of free datasets that are becoming increasingly available (just look at Google Earth!) we can test out some of these methods to see whether computers can indeed help save the rainforest.

Join us upstairs at theOld King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs – we hope to see you there!