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Reflecting on the Data Science for Sustainability Meetup

Last night, more than 100 people gathered at Trulia for a Meetup discussing how data science can be applied to sustainability and conservation in urban growth. It was a fascinating discussion and one Trulia was happy to host.

As a senior data scientist at Trulia, I focus on user behavior modeling. My work is a little different from the theme of this talk, but as someone interested in environmental sustainability, and in data science in general, I was keen to hear how data science is being applied to conservation. The conversation did not disappoint. Here are a few key takeaways I thought were worth sharing:

  1. We usually think about growth and conservancy as mutually exclusive, but they aren’t. Carrie Schloss, a spatial data scientist with The Nature Conservancy, did an excellent job delivering this message and explaining that you can achieve growth while still caring about conservancy, thanks to data science. Data science specifically can help analyze various scenarios for growth but also allow you to choose sustainable development options.
  2. The Nature Conservancy is not stopping at research. They are actively looking to help urban planning decision makers by integrating their conservancy modules right into city- and county-level planning processes. It’s always refreshing to take a step back and think about how your area of expertise can be applied to various industries.
  3. More technically speaking, analyzing 30-meter resolution aerial pictures and performing kernel density estimation can be challenging. Depending on the application, one way to handle this could be to not do pixel-level analysis, but instead area- or region-level analysis, which can help with computation complexity.

We’re often hosting talks on all topics at Trulia – many technical and some more application-oriented, like this one. If you’re looking to host a Meetup and need a space, don’t be shy – let us know. And, stay tuned here for updates on future Trulia events.