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Scientists are using facial recognition software to track and protect seals | CBC Radio


As It Occurs6:25Scientists are utilizing facial recognition software program to trace and shield seals

Scientists are taking a controversial know-how related to surveillance, and adapting it for conservation.

It is known as SealNet, and it is a facial recognition database that is used to trace the motion of seals. 

“It is kind of reworking this know-how from the Large Brother issues that we now have in human facial recognition know-how, to utilizing it for good,” biologist Krista Ingram advised As It Occurs host Nil Köksal. “There is no draw back.”

Ingram, a biologist at Colgate College in Hamilton, N.Y.,  is the group chief of SealNet. The software program was developed partially by Ahmet Ay, a Colgate affiliate professor of biology and arithmetic. It is primarily based on PrimNet, facial recognition software program used to determine primates.

In a current take a look at Ingram, Ay and their colleagues discovered SealNet may precisely determine particular person harbor seals between 90 and 97 per cent of the time. The findings had been printed within the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Snapping seals

Should you suppose all seals look alike, you might need to examine your human biases. 

Ingram says every seal is exclusive — and he or she ought to know. She and her colleagues have spent hours in Maine’s Casco Bay snapping photos of harbor seals for the database.

Ingram says she’s taken greater than 8,000 pictures of the critters thus far. They’ve uploaded 1,250 of them to SealNet.

“I am getting actually good at it,” she stated.

A woman in a bright blue jacket leans over the edge of a boat and peers through a camera with a long lens.
Krista Ingram, a biology professor at Colgate College in Hamilton, N.Y., snaps photos of harbor seals. (Submitted by Krista Ingram)

She and her group {photograph} the animals whereas they’re resting on rocks that jut out of the water at low tide. They snap the photographs from a ship utilizing long-range cameras, in order to abide by federal rules to maintain 50 metres away from marine mammals.

It isn’t with out its challenges.

“The issue is that you may’t manipulate them. So it’s a must to wait till they’re truly you if you need a full-on entrance image,” Ingram stated. “So one of many issues we’re engaged on is utilizing some new drone know-how to permit us to extra simply manoeuvre round … to get each face of each seal on that rock.”

Monitoring key to conservation

Monitoring the motion of seals is essential to conservation planning, Ingram stated.

Historically, scientists comply with the motion of seals and different marine mammals utilizing satellite tv for pc trackers. However facial recognition know-how may present sooner, cheaper, extra correct information with a non-invasive method.

“After we are fascinated about conservation coverage, we actually want, at its essence, the elemental kind of organic information on inhabitants sizes,” Ingram stated.

A screenshot from facial recognition software shows four rows of images and accompanying text. Under "Raw Data" at the top, a photo of seals on some rocks. Beneath that, "Face Detection" shows the same image with red squares around the seals' faces. "Landmark Location" shows those faces cropped with red numbers over the eyes, mouths and noses. The final row, called "Alignment & Chipping," shows the cropped faces with no additional markings.
SealNet maps the distinctive traits of every harbor seal’s face. (Submitted by Krista Ingram)

That features getting a way of the seals’ migratory patterns — in different phrases, how usually do they return to the identical locations?

“The one drawback we now have with seals is that observing people and what they’re doing over the season — you already know, over the course of a summer time or over years — that takes plenty of time. And the strategies that we have used over the previous few many years are very costly and time-consuming,” Ingram stated.

“We’re kind of taking conservation biology into the twenty first century through the use of such a know-how to hurry up that course of and to automate issues in order that we will get that sort of information way more shortly.”

Michelle Berger, an affiliate scientist on the Shaw Institute in Maine, who was not concerned within the SealNet analysis, says it seems very promising.

“As soon as the system is perfected I can image numerous fascinating ecological functions for it,” Berger advised The Related Press.

“If they might acknowledge seals, and acknowledge them from yr to yr, that will give us numerous details about motion, how a lot they transfer from web site to web site.”

Enhancing and increasing

The subsequent step, says Ingram, is to enhance SealNet’s accuracy. As soon as they get it the place they need it to be, they plan to supply it as much as others, freed from price.

“We actually need this know-how to be accessible to seal researchers across the globe who might or might not have as a lot, you already know, laptop science background,” she stated.

To try this, the Colgate researchers are additionally working with FruitPunch, a Dutch synthetic intelligence firm, to enhance some points of SealNet to encourage wider use. 

FruitPunch’s head of partnerships and progress Tjomme Dooper says the corporate is getting just a few dozen scientists world wide to work on a problem to streamline SealNet’s workflow.

A close-up of a seal's face.
Ingram hopes SealNet might be tailored for different species of seals, just like the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. (Caleb Jones/The Related Press)

Harbor seals are already a conservation success story within the U.S. They had been extensively hunted by fishers within the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however their inhabitants rebounded after the Marine Mammal Safety Act handed 50 years in the past. 

Different seals, nevertheless, aren’t so fortunate. Ingram hopes SealNet will ultimately be used to trace the Hawaiian monk seal and the Mediterranean monk seal, each of that are endangered species.

“Utilizing this know-how for conservation and really making it accessible and freed from price for those that work across the globe on conservation points and marine coastal insurance policies — it is simply it is a win-win,” Ingram stated.

With information from The Related Press. Interview with Krista Ingram produced by Sarah Cooper and Devin Nguyen.


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