Using state-of-the-art tech, these researchers could help us understand our changing environment – and protect hay fever sufferers too
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Spotted: When we think of global warming, the itchy eyes of allergy season are unlikely to be the first thing that springs to mind. But, experts highlight that worsening climate change means longer pollen seasons – and more runny noses for hay fever sufferers.
Historically speaking, researchers have analysed pollen in the air manually, which is a highly laborious task. Now, to monitor the growing rates of pollen and better understand environmental change, scientists from the University of Exeter and Swansea University are turning to cutting-edge technologies –including imaging flow cytometry and deep learning artificial intelligence (AI) to create a system that’s able to spot and categorise different pollens much more quickly.
As researcher Dr Ann Power highlights, “Pollen is an important environmental indicator, and piecing together the jigsaw of different pollen types in the atmosphere, both today and in the past, can help us build up a picture of biodiversity and climate change.”
As well as helping us to better understand our changing environment and shifting biodiversity levels, the AI-powered system could also help those with severe pollen allergies better manage their symptoms. Understanding when certain types of pollen are most prevalent, such as the grass pollens that so many are allergic to, would help to improve pollen forecasting so that individuals can limit exposure or take medications accordingly.
Accurately keeping track of biodiversity and climate change is the first step in ensuring that we are moving in the right direction for environmental protection. In the archive, Springwise has also spotted the use of AI and sensors to monitor farms and assessment software to forecast climate change risk.
Written By: Matilda Cox