IUCN and Microsoft form unique partnership to tackle species extinction

11 September 2012 | International news release

Microsoft and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, jointly announced today at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea, the formation of a new partnership to further strengthen the information available on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. This collaboration sees Microsoft becoming the first corporate member of The IUCN Red List Partnership.

“The IUCN Red List is the starting point for conservation action. Many species have been saved from extinction through conservation programmes based on sound science,” says Dr. Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Global Species Programme. “The skills and knowledge that Microsoft brings to The IUCN Red list partnership will be invaluable in developing policies and conservation programmes to protect species.”

Specifically, Microsoft will provide a combination of scientific expertise and new technologies to more accurately understand current and future extinction threats to the world’s plant, fungi and animal species, thus enabling better conservation policy frameworks to be devised. This new partnership formalizes work that the two organizations have been exploring together since the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010.

“This century will be defined, not least, by whether we are able to tackle unprecedented global ecological and environmental challenges,” says Professor Stephen Emmott, Head of Computational Science, Microsoft. “This will require NGO’s, Governments, universities and businesses to establish new kinds of partnerships, new kinds of science and scientists, and new kinds of technologies. Our partnership with the IUCN, led by Dr. Lucas Joppa, a leading ecologist based at my laboratory, is a pioneering example of this combination”.

Microsoft has unveiled this afternoon a new software application, the first fruits of the partnership, which allows users to query and map relevant IUCN Red List information, which will enable IUCN to begin to capture spatial information on species-specific threats. This new software, developed by Microsoft’s Computational Science Laboratory in Cambridge and with design support from researches in the DigiLab at the University of Arts London, will also allow the Lab to use the data generated through this application to extend its models of biodiversity patterns and processes to define conservation priorities and to help develop scalable measures and metrics for monitoring the health of ecosystems. Additionally Microsoft Research will provide scientific and technical expertise led by Dr. Lucas Joppa, a leading ecologist based in Microsoft Research’s Computational Science Laboratory, as well as support in hosting and communicating The IUCN Red List information more broadly.

“Microsoft is unique in having a research laboratory combining world-leading ecological scientists and software developers. It is an approach that has encouraged IUCN to seek out our expertise and strengthen the bonds between the two organizations,” says Frank McCosker, Head of Global Strategic Accounts, Microsoft.

The IUCN Red List is the most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. There are now more than 63,000 species assessed and the results are disturbing: 41% of amphibians, 33% of Reef building Corals, 25% of Mammals and 13% of Birds are threatened with extinction.

“IUCN is the steward of a vast amount of expert knowledge and our work with Microsoft will ensure that we have an ever increasing amount of up to date and accurate information available for conservationists and others,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “The quality of environmental data is of paramount importance and we believe this partnership will contribute to the protection of threatened species across the globe.”

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
• Maggie Roth, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 104 2460 email maggie.roth@iucn.org  
• Brian Thomson, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 721 8326, email brian.thomson@iucn.org
• Marta Saez, Weber Shandwick, msaez@webershandwick.com , +44 20 7067 0524 (for Microsoft)
 


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