Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 33 n° 244

Combining artificial intelligence and citizen science to improve wildlife surveys

Posted by fidest press agency su domenica, 31 marzo 2019

A research team testing the capacity of both citizen scientists and machine learning algorithms to help survey the annual wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania found that both methods could produce accurate animal counts, a boon for park managers.The iconic migration of 1.3 million blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and 250,000 common zebra (Equus quagga) between Serengeti and the Masaai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is the largest terrestrial animal migration on Earth. The migration of so many herbivorous animals affects drives other biological process in the grassland ecosystem, including soil nutrient cycles, the balance of trees and grasses, and the abundance of insects, birds and carnivores. The population trend of the wildebeest in particular reflects levels of bushmeat poaching, disease, and other human disturbance. Understanding the health and dynamics of the migration is thus of key interest to both researcher and Park managers, yet the sheer numbers of animals have challenged monitoring efforts.
Scientists have most commonly estimated the population size of these migrating species by flying aerial transects, taking thousands of photographs, and counting the animals seen in the images. From these counts, they statistically estimate the density of animals in the region to come up with an overall population size.However, the labor-intensive task of manually counting the aerial images can take three or four skilled counters several weeks to complete, limiting team’s ability to make a timely, accurate population estimate.
The research team, comprised of researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the Field Museum of Natural History in the USA and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, tested whether two newer strategies for analyzing images – citizen scientists and automated object detection algorithms – could speed the counting process while maintaining accurate wildebeest population estimates.


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