June 25, 2014: Tanya Berger-Wolf wins American Women in Science Chicago Chapter 2014 Innovator Award

It's our great pleasure to honor Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she heads the Computational Population Biology Lab.

Dr. Berger-Wolf?s research is the very essence of innovation: she defined the area of computational ecology and translated biological questions into computational problems that challenge computer science itself.

The work in computational population genetics implemented as the web-based tool (kinalyzer.cs.uic.edu) has been used over 80,000 times in 2 years by biologists. It has led to speeding up fundamental basic linear algebra operations done with GPUs. Tanya?s work laid the foundation of computational analysis of dynamic social networks, opening new directions in animal behavior. HotSpotter, the method for identifying striped or spotted animals in images, gives biologists access to the most abundant and cheap source of data about the natural world: photographs (from tourists, camera traps, park rangers, drones, scientists, and accidental nature photographer). The method is now deployed to track zebras in Kenya and snow leopards in Nepal, as well as was recently used to track population sizes of harbor seals in UK as an indicator of the health of the UK harbors. The ability to extract ecological data from images is now being incorporated into an Image Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS), a project that Dr. Berger-Wolf is leading and the prototype of which will be deployed in Kenya this summer.

Brief Bio:

Dr. Berger-Wolf?s research interests are in applications of computational techniques to problems in ecology, from genetics to social interactions. Dr. Berger-Wolf received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002. After spending some time as a postdoctoral fellow working in computational phylogenetics and doing research in computational epidemiology, she returned to Illinois. She has received numerous awards for her research and mentoring, including the US National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2008 and the UIC Mentor of the Year (2009) and Graduate Mentor (2012) awards.

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