7 million AI images capture signs of hope in Australia’s scorched forests

Researchers install a sensor camera on Kangaroo Island (WWF).

Bushfire-affected regions have undertaken signs of recovery, as captured by Australia’s biggest sensor camera project.

The cameras use AI technology to monitor and track wildlife progression following major natural disasters, that have majorly impacted many ecosystems across Australia.

The Eyes on Recovery Project aims to measure the impact the summer bushfires had on wildlife in 2019-2020. The new AI technology is trained to identify more than 150 Australian animals to track the recovery of threatened species.

The cameras detected a critically endangered species of dunnarts on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. Despite initial fears from researchers, the survival of the species is rare as the bushfires scorched 90% of the dunnart’s habitat.

AI cameras captureds dunnart on Kangaroo Island (WWF).

 

WWF-Australia’s Eye’s on Recovery Program coordinator Dr Emma Spencer said the new AI cameras had to be programmed to accurately identify animals detected.

“The AI model had never seen Australia’s unique animals before, so when we started uploading images it was identifying wombats as pigs and kangaroos as deer,” she added.

“Now, after training, the model can recognise species like eastern grey kangaroos, wombats, koalas and spotted-tailed quolls with more than 90% accuracy.”

Dr Spencer said it’s also the first time an AI model has learned to identify rarer species such as the Kangaroo Island dunnart.

“This is really remarkable as dunnarts look very similar to other small mammals like mice and even trained researchers can have difficulty telling the species apart.”

AI model on Wildlife Insights identifies a brush-tailed rock wallaby (WWF).

 

New technologies like the AI model have now become a powerful tool in helping researchers to identify wildlife that survived the bushfires and determine where recovery actions are needed.

Program Manager at Google Earth Outreach Tanya Birch said the project proves the value of AI to gather data and insights that were not previously accessible.

“Google is proud to support WWF, Conservation International and local researchers on this ground-breaking project to monitor the post-bushfire recovery of Australian species,” Birch said.

Throughout this project, we have trained our AI model to better recognise over 150 Australian wildlife species.

This enables speedier conservation decision-making on the ground, so local communities can take action to protect these unique Australian animals,” she added.

1,100 cameras have been installed across Australia in the bush fire-affected regions of Blue Mountains, Hunter and Central Coast, North Coast, South Coast and the Southern Ranges in NSW, East Gippsland, Kangaroo Island and Southeast Queensland.

WWF is an Australian organisation that specialises in wildlife conservation and habitat protection of endangered species.

 

For more information on the project visit their website:

https://wwf.org.au/what-we-do/species/eye-on-recovery/

 

Natasha Hortis

Natasha Hortis is a writer and creative studying a Bachelor of Communications majoring in journalism at Deakin University. She has volunteered for multiple charities and is passionate about journalism as it is educating and informing, to empower those who may not have a voice. Natasha wants to be a journalist to make readers connect to the stories and investigate the real matters that have a big impact on the world.

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Natasha Hortis

Natasha Hortis is a writer and creative studying a Bachelor of Communications majoring in journalism at Deakin University. She has volunteered for multiple charities and is passionate about journalism as it is educating and informing, to empower those who may not have a voice. Natasha wants to be a journalist to make readers connect to the stories and investigate the real matters that have a big impact on the world.

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