The Amazon rainforest alone stores an amount of carbon equivalent to a decade of global fossil fuel emissions, and plays a crucial role in the world’s precipitation and oxygen-transfer processes — earning it the nickname, the “lungs of the world.” Because of its sheer size, changes in the forest affect not only the local environment, but global weather, by altering wind and ocean current patterns.
Understanding how those processes work on a small scale was the goal of the recent Brazilian Rainforest Sensor Network project — a joint effort from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Johns Hopkins University, the São Paulo Research Foundation, the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, andMicrosoft Research.
It’s part of an effort to help scientists better understand the planet’s delicate and complex systems, and the impact of human activities. Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist, says that information technology is playing a key role in that quest. Microsoft is working on several fronts to help scientists understand and share environmental information, and demonstrate the potential of this research.
“With the world’s population expected to hit 9 billion people by 2040, all of us need to better understand our impact on the planet,” Bernard says. “In order to understand, we need to have better information and better ways to visualize that information.”
In 2009, scientists from the groups working on the Amazon project converged in Mata Atlântica, the Atlantic coastal rainforest in the state of São Paulo, southeast Brazil, to develop, build, test and deploy a wireless sensor network for collecting environmental data.
Program Manager Rob Fatland of Microsoft Research’s External Research division was brought onboard the project for his expertise in deploying sensor networks into rugged environments.
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