From mussels to dolphins, Bing Xue uses her coding skills to conserve the planet one species at a time.
For Bing Xue, computer science (CS) is so much more than working with numbers and code on a screen. “The thing I enjoy most is solving real-world problems,” says Bing. “You can see that we’re making a difference and that’s exciting.” With her team at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, Bing is designing machine learning and Artificial
Intelligence (AI) algorithms to track how mussels grow in national parks. By applying her technique to images of the mussels, Bing and her team can track how fast the mussels are growing and understand their feeding patterns. “It’s far more efficient than having to actually go into the water and look at them,” says Bing.
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Listening to dolphins
Bing is also developing systems and using sensors to study dolphin behaviour. The algorithms that Bing and her colleagues are designing will be able to detect dolphin clicks in noisy audio files recorded beneath the waves, making it easier for researchers to study their behaviour.
While Bing’s interest in CS was sparked when she took a data mining class during her Master’s in Management Science and Engineering at Shenzhen University, it wasn’t until she came to New Zealand to do a PhD in evolutionary computing – a field in AI that uses algorithms inspired by biological evolution – that Bing realised she could use her skills to make a positive impact.
“Conservation is beneficial for humans and every living thing,” she says. “Everything is connected.”
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Bing’s advice to students interested in CS and conservation is to keep their study options broad. For example, it’s a good idea for CS majors to take ecology and conservation subjects to build their knowledge.
It also doesn’t hurt to reach out to lecturers and professors, she says. “Talk to your teachers, as they are also looking for students with the right expertise,” says Bing. “They will be able to guide you to opportunities.”
Bing’s study and career pathway
- Bachelor of Science, Information Management and Information Systems, Henan University of Economics and Law
- Master of Science, Management Science and Engineering, Shenzhen University
- PhD in Evolutionary Computation, Victoria University of Wellington
- Associate Professor of Computer Science and Researcher, Victoria University of Wellington
This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.
Author: Gemma Conroy
Gemma is a freelance journalist with a passion for making science accessible to everyone. Gemma has a degree in biology from Macquarie University and loves sharing amazing discoveries with the world.