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Requests for Proposals

Artificial Intelligence for Species Discovery

Picture of National Geographic Explorer Thandiwe Mweetwa tracking down a pride of lions.

Photograph by Martin Edström

Humans share the Earth with a spectacular variety of life. Since 1753, when Carl Linnaeus began our modern system of giving organisms two-part Latin names, almost two million species of eukaryotes have been identified and named. However, most of the millions of organisms on the planet have not yet been catalogued. The most recent biodiversity estimates suggest that more than 80 percent of species remain unknown to science — and that doesn’t even count bacteria! Lack of data impairs our ability to responsibly manage and conserve the planet’s resources. With more than one million species on the verge of extinction, we need to act rapidly or they will be gone forever — and will remain mostly unknown.

Eminent biodiversity scientist E.O. Wilson has called for a “Linnaean renaissance” to close the gap between the number of estimated species and those described by science. In honor of Wilson’s contributions to the field, and in celebration of his 90th birthday on June 10, National Geographic seeks to support the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help transform the discovery of new species by collecting and analyzing more precise data, producing faster and more meaningful insights, and accelerating promising solutions.

The National Geographic Society and Microsoft’s AI for Earth program are partnering to support the exploration of how AI can help us discover, identify, and classify new species. The Artificial Intelligence for Species Discovery RFP will provide support to projects that accelerate discovery, monitoring, and modeling, and ultimately improve the management of Earth’s biodiversity for a more sustainable future.



The grants will support the creation and deployment of open source trained models, algorithms, and datasets to support species discovery. To strengthen your application, consider aligning with a research group to address a biodiversity question. For example, pair an expert capable of creating and deploying an open source trained model or algorithm with a research specialist using this model or algorithm to address a pressing biodiversity question. We encourage proposals for work in any biome.

Proposed work should create generalizable, scalable tools that use AI to support species discovery. Priority will be given to projects that do one or more of the following:

  • Use AI to address challenges in filling biodiversity data gaps.

  • Generate data and develop open-source technologies that contribute to scientific inquiry and advance our knowledge of the planet’s biodiversity.

  • Use AI and machine learning to capitalize on the information potential of massive and complex datasets.


Grant Resources

Proposals may request $5,000 to $100,000. The budgets of successful proposals will include reasonable, well-justified costs directly required to complete the project. Please see the Preparing Your Proposal page regarding budget guidance, including stipend eligibility, and justify all budget requests in detail. Successful applicants may use awarded funds over one year.

In addition to financial support, successful proposals will receive free access to Microsoft’s AI for Earth API’s, applications, tools, and tutorials, and support for their computational work on Microsoft Azure.


Project Requirements

All models supported through this grant must be open source, and grant recipients must be willing to (1) publicly share their models for use by other environmental researchers, and (2) share the underlying data with the National Geographic Society. More specifically, grant recipients must:

  • Make their solutions available for publication on the AI for Earth website through a designated open source license.

  • Make their training data on which their solutions are developed publicly available in a standard digital format.

  • Implement their solutions on Microsoft Azure.

If you have questions about the AI for Species Discovery RFP, please email us at with “AI for Species Discovery” in the subject line.

For More Information

For more information about this RFP, join us for an informational webinar where we can answer your questions about this funding opportunity. 

  • November 5, 2019, at 9 a.m. EDT
  • November 7, 2019, at 4 p.m. EST
  • November 12, 2019, at 4 p.m. EST
  • November 14, 2019, at 9 a.m. EST

If you would like to attend a webinar, please fill out this form. Recordings of the webinars will not be posted publicly.  

Please consult our Frequently Asked Questions here.

Ready to Apply?

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