Video: Microsoft Helps Yale-Launched Business Map the Future of U.S. Forests

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

While he was a student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), Zach Parisa ’09 M.F.S. developed a technology that uses satellite data to determine the size and species of trees in forests. That innovation would eventually become SilviaTerra — co-founded by Parisa and Max Nova, a 2012 graduate of Yale College — which helps improve forest management and improves the return on investment for some of the nation’s largest timber companies.
Now, with a grant from Microsoft’s “AI for Good” initiative, the company has created the first high-resolution inventory for all U.S. forests, a tool that will help conservationists, government organizations, and landowners make better forest management decisions.
“Forests are made up of complex interconnected systems, and there’s never been a way to measure all of these systems,” says Parisa. “And you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
The project is featured in a new video produced by Microsoft (above).
For this project, SilviaTerra is using Microsoft Azure, high-resolution satellite imagery, and U.S. Forest Service inventory and analysis field data to train machine-learning models to measure forests.
To date, Microsoft has awarded more than 200 AI for Earth grants, which support projects that are changing the way people and organizations monitor, model, and manage the planet’s natural systems.
In 2010, SilviaTerra won the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize, a cash prize that support for-profit business concepts that help achieve a more sustainable way of life. The Sabin prize is managed by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY), which is based at F&ES and the Yale School of Management.