Seeing the Ocean’s Future with Big Data and AI

D. Whitney King, Colby’s senior advisor to the president and Miselis Professor of Chemistry, hosted a live virtual event May 11. He provided an update on Colby’s Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence and introduced Nicholas Record, senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and director of the Colby-Bigelow Sea Change Semester Program, who spoke about his research using big data and AI.

As relying on the world’s oceans is becoming increasingly important to support our population in a changing climate, so do artificial intelligence and big data when it comes to assisting researchers with ocean forecasting. Record discussed the myriads of data sources streaming in from across the globe and new machine learning methods scientists are using to produce real-time forecasts of the ocean, ranging from toxic algae to endangered whales. This kind of forecasting has benefits for health and recreation, resource management, and climate adaptation. It also opens up new challenges, such as how to use learning algorithms to tap into community science and how to make sure data and algorithms are used in an equitable way. 

Anticipated to open this fall, Colby’s Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence is already inspiring faculty and students from across the College who are using AI in exciting new ways and looking forward to the many collaborations the institute will foster. “Our students will be best served if they have the training to think critically about the range of AI issues, an educational outcome that is tailor made for a liberal arts education,” says King.