IBM to crunch numbers for river conservation

Big Blue's green team to participate in Nature Conservancy project to protect large rivers.

IBM is participating in a Nature Conservancy project to improve information gathered to monitor the health of large river ecosystems.

Company CEO Samuel Palmisano is scheduled to announce IBM's participation in the Great Rivers Partnership at IBM's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday.

The Great Rivers Partnership is aimed at conserving river waterways and information-sharing among scientists, planners and conservationists as they focus their resources on Earth's largest rivers, such as the Paraguay-Parana in Brazil and the Mississippi in the U.S.

"We're trying to figure out what sustains these rivers so people don't repeat the same mistakes," said Michael Reuter, the project's director at the Nature Conservancy.

Reuter said that there is a great disparity between the amount and quality of information gathered at different sites around the world.

The Nature Conservancy hopes to tap IBM's expertise in modeling complex systems and visualizing large amounts of information, he said.

IBM intends to set up software and hardware that will allow conservationists to create what-if scenarios and make more informed decisions, said Sharon Nunes, vice president of IBM's Big Green Innovations business.

If, for example, there were an increase in farm production around a river, it can have a large impact on erosion and water quality.

The initiative is coming out of IBM's corporate philanthropy. But IBM intends to translate its experience with the Nature Conservancy project into its Big Green Innovations initiative for environmental products and services, Nunes said.

"A lot of the work we will be doing in the Great Rivers Partnership will be relevant to creating a services offering around water management," she said.

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