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Peak District gets funding to tackle environmental issues

The Peak District National Park Foundation and Authority are among 10 organisations to gain funding through The Alan Turing Institute to tackle environmental issues.

The environmental and sustainability charities and Non-Governmental Organisations have been chosen to take part in The Alan Turing Institute’s first combined Turing Internship Network (TIN) and Data Study Group (DSG) programme. 

The programme will place PhD data science researchers within the organisations to work on their data challenges. Interns will use their research and technical skills to find new ways to approach these challenges, whilst also gaining extensive expertise in the topics.

In the Peak District, funding will be used to develop an automated classification of land cover for the 555 sq mile National Park, using satellite and aerial photography and a range of data science tools in partnership with Cranfield University, in Bedfordshire.

David Alexander, senior data research analyst at the Peak District National Park, has been developing this research with lecturers from Cranfield University.

David said: “No element of the National Park landscape is untouched by past or present human activity. However, new technologies, climate change, more people and changing lifestyles mean that our potential to change the environment and the appearance of the landscape is far greater now than in any previous generation. 

“Understanding land cover change at a landscape scale is fundamental to be able to measure the changes that are already occurring, as well as the effect of the improvements we make.”

The Foundation’s fundraising development manager, Sarah Slowther, added: “Working together, the Peak District National Park Foundation and Authority were in a unique position to access this new exciting new funding stream. 

“This funding allows us to access the expertise and knowledge of data scientist specialists from across UK universities. This will not only support the priorities of the Foundation, but also the National Park Management Plan as well as many other areas of our work.” 

The new joint initiative demonstrates the Turing’s continued commitment to tackling climate change and learning about its impact through data science and artificial intelligence (AI) research.  

The organisations participating in the programme are: Plymouth Marine LaboratoryKeep Wales Tidy and Keep Scotland BeautifulPeak District National Park AuthorityThe Rivers TrustGlobal WitnessJohn Muir TrustNational Oceanography CentreEnvironmental Investigation Agencyand Sustrans

All are focused on solving a broad range of critical environmental and sustainability problems. 

In conjunction with this research, the successful participants will also prepare a related DSG challenge that will be held towards the end of the six-month internship. Data science experts will then further explore these challenges. The aim is that these projects will result in the longer-term collaborations with these and other organisations.

Chief Scientist, Professor Mark Girolami, said: “Convening data scientists and industry collaborators will harness our collaborative power to tackle a range of environmental problems. 

“We’ve focused on environmental organisations because we’re committed to working towards solutions to some of the big climate-related challenges that we face globally. The combined TIN and DSG programme will offer some innovative data science approaches to tackling real-world problems.”  

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