Microsoft Azure is hard at work helping to save the shellfish industry

Staff Writer

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When you hear of changes to climate, most might think of areas once sunny possibly looking like New York a couple of weeks ago. Or a rain-soaked area like Washington becoming the next candidate for the line, “it never rains in sunny California.”

As we get a better grasp on these predictions of climate change and their impact, we discover new areas to focus on, apply technology to help better understand those changes, and utilize the data for future changes. One such area that Microsoft leads when it comes to data collection, is the Microsoft Azure platform. According to a post by Microsoft Research Blog, for Bill Dewey, director of public affairs at Taylor Shellfish, this technology is helping to save the shellfish industry.

Taylor Shellfish is a company that farms oysters off the coast of Washington. Around the year of 2008, Bill Dewey was working as a shellfish farmer, where the company was impacted by the sudden death of thousands of “seed” oysters. When more information became available and while serving as the director of public affairs, Bill went into depth at a conference with other shellfish farmers exploring whether carbon dioxide levels had risen in the atmosphere and led to an increase in acidic levels in the water.

For a bit of background, when oysters are are born or are infants, they must immediately begin forming an outer shell in order to survive. The shell is formed with carbonate ions in the water. If acidic levels are too high in the water, the lack of carbonate ions forces the baby oyster to work too hard at its first shell, thus it dies in the process. This directly impacts the harvest for oysters and the amount of produce available for the industry.

To help combat this issue, the Washington legislature commissioned the University of Washington to build and study a predictive model on ocean conditions called LiveOcean. This model was designed to help with predicting the acidic levels of water in a bay or other coastal areas.

Leading the team is Parker MacCready, a physical oceanography professor at the University of Washington. Using the power of Microsoft Azure, Parker and his team were able to build a remote ocean model called the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS). ROMS helps feed Azure with data collected from its systems and others like atmospheric forecasts, US Geographical Survey data, and another ocean model called Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM).

Microsoft Azure excels at such big data projects by leveraging its cloud-based platform to help store enormous amounts of collected date. Pairing Azure with web framework components like Python and Django, these forecasts are provided in a format that is easily understood.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the acidic levels of oceans worldwide is a growing concern. In a report, the organization had this to say:

There is an urgent need to strengthen the science as a basis for sound decision making and action.

Microsoft Azure is helping to make this science easily accessible and available to all. Azure is a cloud computing platform, created by Microsoft, in deploying, building and administering applications and services through their data centers or those owned by Microsoft partners.

With the combination of open cloud computing and sharing of data collected from LiveOcean, MacCready sees his model helping in other areas from the shellfish industry ot using technology to track ocean movement, that could potentially help in predicting areas of disaster like oil spills. Microsoft Azure affords MacCready, his team, and Bill Dewey the ability to forego expensive hardware upgrades and channel their data into a safe and secure data center, to access information from and asses it, to help better serve the shellfish industry.