‘Cracking the code’ of woody weed spread with machine-learnt algorithms

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Machine learning algorithms have their origins in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 ciphering Enigma machine

A scientific tool which has its principles in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 Enigma machine – used to convey secret commercial, diplomatic and military communication – is helping to map the fractional cover of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora across the Afar Region of Ethiopia.

PhD Candidate Hailu Shiferaw from Addis Ababa University, who is being supervised by CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, Professor Woldeamlak Bewket (AAU) and Dr Sandra Eckert (Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern), has compared the performances of five Machine Learning Algorithms (MLAs) to test their ability at mapping the fractional cover/abundance and distribution of Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS) – particularly Prosopis which has already devastated an area equivalent to half of neighbouring Djibouti.

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Meet the ‘sorcerer’ and her ‘apprentice’ – just two of CABI’s trailblazing female scientists

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Suzy Wood and Dr Carol Ellison are just two female scientists at CABI playing their part towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

To mark the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science today (11 February 2019), we take a look at how two generations of female scientists are coming together to tackle non-native invasive weeds and help reduce environmental degradation

Meet the ‘sorcerer’ and her ‘apprentice’ Dr Carol Ellison, a plant pathologist at CABI, and Project Scientist and PhD student Suzy Wood who since 2011 has been learning her trade as an entomologist at CABI’s UK laboratories in Egham, Surrey.

Though Carol and Suzy practice different strands of biology, their fields of study do overlap when it comes to invasive weeds and their biological control and management.

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“The future for women (in science) is ours to conquer”

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Photo courtesy of Moving Minds Media: Catherine Mloza Banda says the motivation to work in science came from her father who is a Professor in Agronomy

To mark the forthcoming UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February 2019), we speak to some of CABI’s women working in science. In this blog Catherine Mloza Banda, a Development Communications Specialist – Invasive Species Management, reveals the motivation and inspiration behind her career in science communications and says ‘the future for women (in science) is ours to conquer’. 

What motivated you to work in science and development?

I was motivated to work in science because of my father, who is a Professor in Agronomy. I grew up in an agricultural college, which somehow shaped my ambitions to work in science. I enrolled for a degree in Crop Science. Midway, I realized I had a burning passion for media and communications. So I decided to pursue a career in agricultural communication.

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“I was and still am motivated by discoveries and surprises that come with science”

 

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Lucy Karanja: the reward for being ‘best in science’ at school was a first aid course with St John Ambulance

To mark the forthcoming UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February 2019), we speak to some of CABI’s women working in science. In this blog Lucy Karanja, a Content Manager, reveals the motivation and inspiration behind her career in science communications and says ‘women are all round scientists naturally’. 

What motivated you to work in science and development?

My parents were business people and I did not know anybody in our village who was a scientist. I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up because I admired the way pupils respected teachers. In class 8, we were given a multiple choice science quiz and guess what? I miraculously got 18 out of 20. There were four boys and I was the only girl.

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Professors Ruth Oniang’o and Anne Glover: ‘Women need to understand power structures’

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Professors Ruth Oniang’o and Anne Glover also argue that role models – no matter what gender – can help women get ahead in science

To mark the forthcoming UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science  (11 February 2019), we look at a recent story covered by SciDev.Net in which CABI board members Professors Ruth Oniang’o and Anne Glover argue that women should challenge traditional power structures and ask for more transparency to get ahead in science and other fields in the workplace.

In this article, by Inga Vesper, Professors Oniang’o and Glover also reveal how to overcame barriers before achieving successful careers in male-dominated environments.

Prejudices are everywhere—yet most of us think that we, of course, are not subject to them. We believe we are better than that, we can look beyond a person’s skin colour, religion or gender.

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Can a ‘diet’ of digital data really help feed the world?

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Last week (29 January 2019) CABI was awarded a $1.49 million grant from the Gates Foundation to work with them to help increase food security in India and Ethiopia through better access to data on soil health, agronomy and fertilizers.  In this blog Communications Manager Wayne Coles looks at whether or not the use of digital data in agriculture can have a real impact on our need to feed the world….

The facts are clear; if we’re to stand any chance of feeding a global population of around 9.1 billion by 2050 we must make better use of ‘digital data’ to unlock the potential of more than 570 million smallholder farmers around the world.

The complexity of Africa’s growing food problem, which is exacerbated by social and climatic factors, should not be underestimated. Its population, for example, will exceed 42 million a year over the next three decades while a rise in extreme weather events will wreak havoc on farming communities already grappling with threats to crop yields from a range of agricultural pests and diseases.

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Cabbage stem flea beetle and aphids are the curse of every farmer, but CABI and CHAP may have a solution

 

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Crop pest: The cabbage stem flea beetle – Psylliodes chrysocephalus

By 2050 there could be as many as 10 billion mouths to feed across the world. This is now a much-repeated fact, as is the growing demand for sustainable produce with reduced chemical inputs and environmental impact. In short, there is a need to produce more and more food, with fewer and fewer inputs to protect the environment, increase productivity and minimise costs.

This is where CHAP (Crop Health and Protection), based at Sand Hutton near York, one of the Government’s four Agri-Tech Centres, supported by Innovate UK, comes in. It has been charged with the task of finding scientific and technological solutions to the practical problems facing growers. Working with its 12 Partners, one of which is CABI working from its laboratories based in Egham in Surrey, its priority is to develop and trial solutions to transform crop production so that they can be brought to market on a large scale.

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