AI and Drone technology deployed to study melting glaciers
University of Aberystwyth works with Microsoft to bring next-gen technology into the fight against climate change.
Dr Joseph Cook of Aberystwyth University, Wales, is developing an AI and drone technology to track the melting of glaciers. It is common knowledge that glaciers are melting at an exponential rate; however, this effect is not experienced uniformly across the world as temperature fluctuations vary from country to country. Parts of Canada are finding temperatures rise twice as fast as the global average, with glaciers in the British Colombia area releasing 22bn cubic metres of water each year.
Dr Cook is looking to monitor microscopic organisms that endure the punishing conditions in the Arctic, in the hope of discovering a relationship between the melting icecaps and the microscopic life prevalent in the region.
Using drone technology, Dr Cook’s team were able to map the algae coverage of a 200m x 200m patch of its testing site.
“We trained an algorithm to read our field spectroscopy data and classify the ice surface into discrete categories. We then trained it using satellite imagery and used this to examine an area measuring 100 kilometres by 100 kilometres. The estimates of algal coverage this provided gave us data we could use to estimate the amount of melting that could be attributed to the algae,” explains Dr Cook.
The research is being conducted as part of the Microsoft AI for Earth grant. The grant puts “Microsoft cloud and AI tools in the hands of those working to solve global environmental challenges,” according to Microsoft’s website.
The fight against climate change has taken to AI as a powerful tool to conduct essential research and to support those looking to be the catalyst for change. AI has created more accurate climate models, helped ecologists track threatened wild animals by matching distinguishing markings and aided policy makers in understanding the factors involved in climate change.
AI has allowed scientists across the world to perform research and data analysis that could have taken considerable time under analogue methods. With AI, this can be reduced to mere minutes in some examples. The solution to climate change is still something that may take years to reach but by bringing in innovative technology to perform tasks normally out of human reach, scientists can drive progress forward. With individuals like Dr Cook battling the rising challenges facing our environment, we can begin to understand the consequences we have forced on our planet and how we can fix them before it’s too late.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.