• Audience
    Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 4, Stage 5

IBM EdTech Youth Challenge projects that help humanity monitor and respond to natural disasters, such as bushfire management and citizen science research projects.

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Please note: entries to the IBM EdTech Challenge have now closed. The winning teams will be announced on Friday 12 November 2021.

Extreme climate related natural disasters including wildfires, floods, storms, and droughts have been on the rise worldwide. Based on careful and long-term research in Australia and around the world, human-induced climate change is extending and intensifying the Australian bushfire season.[1] According to Nikalas Hagelbuerg, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) climate change expert,

Megafires may well become the new normal as global temperatures continue to rise.

By early January 2020, bushfires burned over 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land with an intensity and duration never experienced in this country. The damage has not only been devastating to people, homes and sacred sites but all wildlife and habitats.

It is now more urgent than ever to understand what is causing these unprecedented firestorms, how can we best respond to these disasters and how technologies such as AI can be used to create environmentally supportive solutions.

Watch and read the information and definitions below to learn more about climate change and its impact on extreme natural disasters and biodiversity, that may inform your team's IBM Edtech Youth Challenge project. The citizen science FrogID project case study and resources are to inspire and encourage you to think about possible disaster resiliency concerns in Australia and your community. You will also find examples of terrific climate change datasets and potential applications for AI in citizen science which provides a great starting point for brainstorming further innovative concepts and issues to address in your project. There is also information on next steps of the challenge and additional resources to guide and inspire the focus of your project on disaster resilience concerns in your local community and beyond.

Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity and the diversity of life on Earth. We are already experiencing the effects of climate change in Australia including horrific bushfires, severe drought, extinction of species, altered biomes, impacts on mental and physical health, and economic losses.

Scientists predict that without a concerted effort by the global community these impacts will continue to worsen.

Learn more:

Biodiversity comes from two words Bio meaning life and diversity meaning variability.

Biodiversity is the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and micro organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form.

Learn more:

Discover the richness of global climate change datasets to help inspire you with defining an issue for the IBM EdTech Youth Challenge project in your local area.

  • Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Data.
    From the Berkeley Earth Data page, this dataset
    in made up of temperature recordings from the Earth’s surface ranging from November 1st, 1743 to December 1st, 2015. The dataset is divided into several files including:

    - Global temperatures
    - Global land temperatures by country
    - Global land temperatures by state
    - Global land temperatures by major city
    - Global land temperatures by city

  • Global Climate Change Data. This dataset includes information from the Climate Change Knowledge Portal and World Development indicators. It covers various topics such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and more. The total time period of the data covers 1990 – 2011.

  • International Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Created by the United Nations, this Kaggle dataset contains Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data from 1990 to 2014. The official UN website has updated the dataset up to 2017. It includes emission levels by country and region for the following gases:

    - carbon dioxide (CO2)
    - methane (CH4)
    - nitrous oxide (N2O)
    - hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
    - perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
    - unspecified mix of HFCs and PFCs
    - sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
    - nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

  • Daily Sea Ice Extent Data – From The National Snow and Ice Data Center, this climate change dataset has information on the Earth’s cryosphere, and includes glacier, ice, snow and frozen ground data. The dataset has seven columns: year, month, day, extent, missing, source, and hemisphere. Extent refers to the area of the ocean that includes portions of sea ice.

  • Climate Change Adaptation of Coffee Production. From the Harvard Dataverse, this dataset was created to determine the impact of climate change on coffee production quality in Nicaragua. The dataset is divided into six Geotiff Raster files.

AI and design thinking for disaster resiliency

Welcome to the IBM EdTech Youth Challenge, where you can learn how to apply design thinking methods and artificial intelligence solutions to develop resilience in the face of disaster in our region. Extreme natural disasters have been on the rise worldwide and there's significant scientific evidence that shows climate change has increased the frequency and the intensity of these disasters. We all remember the Black Summer bushfires of 2019 and 2020 that ravaged our country with an intensity and a duration never before experienced.

Let's hear from the Australian Museum's Manager of Climate Change Projects, Dr Jenny Newell, as she discusses the effects of climate change and the scientific data that informs our understanding of a changing climate. Herpetologist Dr Jodi Rowley will also take a look at how frogs are being monitored by citizen science data following the bushfire crisis.

Climate change is the long-term change in the earth's temperature and weather systems. What we're seeing is temperatures going up alongside, exactly paralleling the rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that temperature rise is causing a lot of disruption of all our earth systems. We know that the world is doing this because we have a lot of data. Fortunately, there's great ways of getting access to that data, anyone can see it. The kinds of data that scientists have been collecting can be seen in your own environment too. I reckon that when you're thinking about solutions and using technology it's really important to think about local solutions and that anything you come up with really needs to work for a particular community in their particular place. Unless you've found out what's really going to connect to them it's just not going to gel. Climate change is a crisis that threatens our life support systems humans have created it and we have the skills to turn it around.

Frogs are some of the most sensitive creatures to any kind of environmental change. By understanding how disasters impact our frogs we can understand the health of the whole ecosystem. We can understand the impact of disasters on frogs by conducting targeted scientific research, but we need more. We need this mass kind of data that you can only get from citizen science and from surveillance on a much broader scale. Thanks to people getting out there and using FrogID to record frog calls, after the fires I've been able to understand which species can persist after such incredibly devastating fires and which species need our help the most. I'm incredibly passionate about frogs and their conservation. What are you passionate about in your local area or globally and what can you take on in the EdTech Youth Challenge?

Hearing about this Australian Museum research may inspire your project focus for the IBM EdTech Youth Challenge and deliver an artificial intelligence solution for future disaster resilience. Discover real climate change data sets you can research and apply to your IBM EdTech Youth Challenge project on the Australian Museum disaster resiliency page. We need your ideas to help prepare and respond to natural disasters like bushfires. Once your team has identified a project focus, follow the structure of the challenge through the project logbook as well as access these resources to learn about disaster resilience and potential AI solutions to help inform your team's EdTech Youth Challenge project. Remember there's some fabulous prizes and winning teams have the opportunity to further develop their AI solutions with experts from IBM the Australian Museum and Macquarie University.

Impacts of bushfires on biodiversity

The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020 ravaged our country with an intensity and duration never before experienced. In Bushfires and our changed country, Jenny Newell (Manager of Climate Change Projects at the AM), discusses the devastating impact of bushfires on our wildlife and habitats. A recent report commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature estimated over 3 billion animals have perished.[2]

The scale of the loss we are facing is overwhelming and AM scientists have published this report which analysed distribution data from the AM collection of 733 species of invertebrates to evaluate the impacts of the 2019-2020 bushfires on NSW biodiversity.

The research focuses on invertebrates as they make up over 97% of all animal species of Australia's biodiversity and play a critical role in ecosystem health. Many invertebrates are also narrow-range endemics (animals with limited geographic distribution) which increases their vulnerability to widespread fires.

The study found that:

  • Impacts of the bushfires were more severe for species that inhabit areas that do not normally experience fires
  • Extinctions and declines are more critical for species that have low fertility rates and limited geographic distribution and dispersal ability

Frogs surviving the flames

Frogs surviving the flames by Dr Jodi Rowley (Amphibian & reptile conservation biologist at the AM) states that data from FrogID has significantly increased our understanding of how frogs respond to fire. One of the biggest challenges in the aftermath of the 2019-2020 bush fires was determining which frog species most needed our help.

Thousands of citizen scientists took up this challenged using the FrogID app across the fires zone to monitor their local frogs. Remarkably, the records revealed that there were no missing summer-breeding frog species. Despite this initial good news, the full impacts of the fires on Australian frogs will not be evident for some time as they are facing threats to their habitat, climate and disease vulnerability.

Traditional ecological knowledge

Aboriginal people have been managing their lands/Country using Cultural Fire Techniques as a tool since millennia. Rachael Cavanagh, Minyungbal woman and Cultural Land Practitioner

Minyungbal woman and Cultural Land Practitioner, Rachael Cavanagh writes in Fire management on Country and The differences between hazard reduction burning and Cultural Fire practices, that current land management practices are simply not working. Traditional ecological knowledge is described as a cultural way of living for Aboriginal people illustrating the interconnected relationship between the spiritual, social and ecological aspects of Country.

Culture Fire methodology is used in coexistence with the environment. By reading the landscape and understanding the species and their relationship with fire, implementation can be adapted to suit. Techniques such as varying spot ignitions creates a slow moving fire that allows for more coverage and better fuel reduction. This permits local wildlife and insects to move away from the fire and vegetation to recover naturally.

What are some ways technology and AI can be used to help implement healthy fire and land management practices in your region?

Audio classification in citizen science

Citizen Science programs provide a crucial source of data about biodiversity and how populations respond to natural disasters. It relies on public participation in scientific research to help us to gain insights into our environment and create additional data sources.

FrogID is an example of a citizen science project that uses audio data submissions of frog calls around Australia. The calls are then identified by Australian Museum and Audio DNA experts. This project presents many opportunities for technologies such as AI to make even more significant contributions. Below you will find examples of potential applications of AI in citizen science which can be used as a great starting point to inspire and encourage you to brainstorm further innovative concepts for your IBM EdTech Youth Challenge.

Design thinking challenge: FrogID

FrogID is a national citizen science project led by the AM that is helping us learn more about what is happening to Australia’s frogs and conserve our biodiversity. Australia has over 240 known species of frog and with the valuable database of biodiversity records obtained from FrogID, we are learning how they are responding to a changing environment.

With over 50,000 FrogID records now available online, this data is not only a valuable resource to frog conservation but provides insights into far reaching, large-scale and long-term ecosystem effects.

How does it work?

Using the FrogID app, citizen scientists can find, record and help match frog calls. Key data being collected includes location, habitat and weather which can tell us how Australian frog species are responding to a changing environment.

Using FrogID

A major barrier in frog conservation is that they are notoriously hard to find. Since every frog species makes a different sound, the FrogID app allows data collectors to record frog calls in their local area and have them identified by expert herpetologists.

FrogID map

The FrogID Map shows live data feed from the latest call submissions and allows you to filter by council area and species.

Role of AI in citizen science

Advances in AI technologies that allow computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner are now being applied in citizen science.

Paul Flemons (Manager of Citizen Science at the AM), discusses whether AI is a threat to Citizen Science and explores the opportunities and risks that it presents. A recent publication that he co-authored, looks at how AI is already influencing this field through a range of technologies that assist/replace humans in completing tasks, influence human behaviour and improve insights into data.

Citizen science projects that use audio based classification systems to identify animals have great potential for AI application. Some examples of possible applications are outlined below to serve as a springboard for further brainstorming ideas.

Task Example
Improve audio and visual classification Applying computer hearing and vision to acoustic data and images can help scientists in species identification.
Improve data quality control and accuracy AI can be used to verify the accuracy of submissions by using automated reasoning and machine learning. This can also be used to filter out irrelevant data.
Adaptively manage and notify citizen scientists of activities Using satellite-based information of environmental data, AI can inform citizen scientists of certain monitoring requests at a particular time or location. This can be especially vital in disaster zones and extreme weather conditions.

Dataset & technical report

Next steps

Register to participate in the IBM EdTech Youth Challenge and review the Project Guide and Project Logbook. Follow the Project Guide steps to identify issues around health concerns and how AI technology and design thinking can be applied.

  • Problem identification

    Describe a local disaster resiliency problem.

  • Knowledge of AI

    Is there an AI solution to assist in solving this problem?

  • Understanding the user

    Who will benefit from the solution and how.

  • Brainstorm solutions

    Document how creative and critical thinking were used to brainstorm, with one solution being prioritised.

  • Data

    Identify potential data sources, and investigate a data sample and privacy issues.

Additional resources




  • People on Country: Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures

    Jon Altman and Seán Kerins (2012), Indigenous Futures, Sydney: The Federation Press.

  • The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis

    Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac (2020), London: Manilla Press.

  • Sunlight and Seaweed: An Argument for How to Feed, Power and Clean Up the World

    Tim Flannery (2019), Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company.

  • The Climate Cure: Solving the Climate Emergency in the Era of COVID-19.

    Tim Flannery (2020), Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company.

  • 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration

    Damon Gameau (2019), Pan Macmillan Australia.

  • Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

    Paul Hawken (2017), Penguin Books, UK.

  • How to Talk About Climate Change in a way that Makes a Difference

    Rebecca Huntley (2020), Sydney: Murdoch Books.


  1. UN Environment Programme, ‘Are “megafires” the new normal?', 10 January 2020.
  2. WWF, Australia's 2019-2020 Bushfires: the Wildlife Toll, 28 July 2020