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Artificial Intelligence is changing Wildlife Research for the better

The process of analyzing worldwide data on animals is simplifying, and all of this goes down to data harvesting methods, thanks to scientists for AI systems.

Given the urgency of many species worldwide, having real-time data on the nature of endangered species is crucial to ensure their survival. Because biologists cannot always work on-site or collect specimen data, it is very difficult to obtain real-time information on the Earth’s most threatened species.

 

One of the most traditional ways to track numbers in biology is to make satellite photos or aerial counts. The problem with most of these wide-angle photos is that they require time and resources to identify the animals in this footage. It often comes down to the researcher to go through the data and physically count the animals in the aerial survey. Rather than using these outdated methods, it will be easier for biologists to obtain their accounts than ever.

Using some of these data and imaging software, biologists today can use a computer model to track numbers in their aerial counts. WildBook, a software program developed by the Portland-based Conservation Tech nonprofit Wild Me, for example, can automatically detect individual animals from the air based on their coat patterns, appearance, and other features. Having access to these kinds of tools can help biologists make sure data can be accelerated faster. One of the first tests of this software was the San Diego Zoo, a study of African reticulated giraffes in northern Kenya. The WildBook was able to instantly extract data from photographs taken over two days, providing accurate results on the current giraffe’s population in the surveyed national park area. These types of results usually take weeks or months of study to produce.

The plan is to eventually make the software available to rangers and tourists in the park. This means that any photo uploaded from the area will be useful for biologists who want to replicate the population and create a larger data set.

With greater access to these large data sets in the threatened population, tourists from all over the world, biologists, park rangers and the quick conservation list can work together to collect quality data that can be used in conservation efforts.

AI systems are also making the analysis of this data a much faster process. Image enhancement goes through millions of trap photos with something that usually takes experts, biologists, and researchers. Today, there are AI systems that can go through millions of photos in every aspect of this information for a fraction of the time and cost. Banks of data that are not collected and analyzed will eventually be properly used.

The software can only continue to perform better, and there are elements that can one day detect individual animals in the threatened population. There are current tools with whale-watching technology that can “fingerprint” whales by examining their tails on image data.

These kinds of improvements provide a whole new way of seeing animals and conservation around the world. As this technology improves, the efforts made here will see improvements in conservation efforts around the world.

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