Ten 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. 

This 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.  

Based across the UK, the organisations are all focused on solving a broad range of critical environmental and sustainability problems. These local, regional and global challenges range from detecting individual tiger stripe patterns to help counter trade in tigers and tiger skins, to identifying sources of river pollution and modelling litter patterns in public spaces. 

The organisations participating in the programme are: Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Scotland Beautiful, Peak District National Park Authority, The Rivers Trust, Global Witness, John Muir Trust, National Oceanography Centre, Environmental Investigation Agency and Sustrans

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

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 during the DSG. The aim is that these projects will result in the longer-term collaborations with these and other organisations in this space.

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”  

Applications for PhD students to take part are now open. Other exciting internship opportunities are also available via the Turing’s Internship Network. These include placements in data science and responsible AI, cybersecurity, data science for transport and mobility.

The full list of organisations and challenges are as follows: 

Plymouth Marine Laboratory: By using satellite imagery, this project aims to establish coccolithophore plankton areas and link their development over time to system drivers to document changes to ocean ecology driven by climate change.  

Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Scotland Beautiful: This project hopes to understand if AI can be used to analyse images of litter and improve data collection during litter surveys. It will also investigate how data science can enable local authorities to better model and attribute litter patterns in public spaces. 

Peak District National Park Authority: The project will develop an automated classification of land cover for the 555sq miles of the National Park, using satellite and aerial photography, using a range of data science tools in partnership with Cranfield University.

The Rivers Trust: This project will explore how data science can be used to help integrate large volumes of environmental monitoring data from UK rivers to help identify sources of pollution. This will be used to inform river users and communities about pollution levels in real-time. 

Global Witness: This project will combine publicly available satellite imagery and data science techniques to automatically identify in environmentally harmful exploitation of the land . This will help measure the extent of mining across key geographies and document associated environmental harms such as deforestation.

John Muir Trust: This project will explore a new scientific process for understanding the data behind wild places by considering the range of criteria that makes a place wild. These will be used to develop a standard for wild places in the UK. 

National Oceanography Centre: This project will study and work with satellite and remote sensing datasets, to detect and track eddies (a current moving in the opposite direction of the main current). It will model their trajectory, improving our ability to predict the weather,  changing climate, as well as studying their impact on the economy, fishing industries, and humanity. 

Environmental Investigation Agency: This project aims to develop a tiger stripe detection AI tool to help identify individual tiger stripe pattern profiles, using thousands of images sourced by EIA staff and other organisations. This will help counter trade in tigers and tiger skins and inform enforcement efforts. 

Sustrans: This project will use data science and AI to understand how walking and cycling projects and infrastructure may be geographically biased. This objective is to inform the Sustrans ‘For Everyone’ ambitions; including equity of access to active and sustainable travel for all people across the UK.