A new optimization technique could help conservation biologists choose the most cost-effective ways of connecting isolated populations of rare, threatened and endangered species living in protected areas. The work demonstrates how computer science and optimization programming can have applications to new areas such as sustainability, noted Carla Gomes, Professor of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University and former PhD student co-author Bistra Dilkina. Cornell's Institute for Computational Sustainability received a $10 million NSF Expeditions in Computing Award that helped support the optimization research.

"This work opens up new directions in terms of understanding tradeoffs for different species," Gomes said. "If we can get synthesis rather than just optimize for one, it's more efficient."