News from the Field

Cutting-edge technology delivering efficiency gains in conservation

18 Aug. 2021
AWC

AWC is working to break new ground in the delivery of effective conservation.

Ongoing investments in cutting-edge technology – including an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program and applying Internet of Things (IoT) to improve conservation management – and partnerships with leading bodies, such as Microsoft, are changing the way our talented team of scientists and land managers are working in the field.

 

Through AI technology, AWC hopes to increase the amount of time ecologists can spend in the field by decreasing their manual data processing workload. W Lawler/AWC
Through AI technology, AWC hopes to increase the amount of time ecologists can spend in the field by decreasing their manual data processing workload.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AWC is harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence to increase camera trap processing efficiency.

Currently our AI program can, with over 95% accuracy, identify the presence (or absence) of an animal in an image, effectively removing the problem of ‘false positives’ (cameras triggered by moving vegetation, for example).  In 2020, this ‘mega-detector’ model was used to process 4.52 million images. More recently, the process of testing a Species Classifier recognition model has commenced and the AI program has been trained to recognise up to 35 Australian native species from across regional sanctuaries.

You can read more AWC’s innovative AI program and other applications of technology for conservation in the May 2021 edition of Wildlife Matters 

 

AWC’s AI program can identify multiple animals in a camera trap image and is being trained to recognise multiple species. AWC
AWC’s AI program can identify multiple animals in a camera trap image and is being trained to recognise multiple species.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

AWC conservation land managers are trialling the use of IoT devices to create a Gate and Fence Monitoring Program.

These devices combine GPS data with 24/7 vibration and acceleration monitoring of the feral-proof fence. Any activity is immediately relayed to AWC Head Office.  

Monitoring fence condition may seem like a minor task, but it covers a vast area – there is over 40 km of fenceline at Newhaven, one of the largest feral predator-free areas on mainland Australia – and is essential for ensuring the fenced area is not compromised. At present this requires land management officers to physically inspect fence condition every second day. 

 

IoT devices combined with GPS data will be used to monitor AWC’s feral predator-free fences 24/7 through vibration and acceleration. W Lawler/AWC
IoT devices combined with GPS data will be used to monitor AWC’s feral predator-free fences 24/7 through vibration and acceleration.

 

Thermal (Infra-Red) Drone technology

We are also making advancement in the realm of Thermal (Infra-Red) Drone technology.

As seen on ABC TV’s Catalyst program, our team at Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW) is currently trialling the use of a higher resolution imaging drone in the field. In recent tests our ecologists were able to manually identify native nocturnal species while the drone was in the air.  

Ultimately, we are working towards trialling the AI program to analyse drone footage.

This is a challenge and will require industry leading research by AWC’s AI team to develop models to identify wildlife from a thermal signature or physical motion.

 

During a recent trial of Thermal (Infra-Red) Drone technology at Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, the team were able to clearly identify a Bilby based on its heat signature. AWC
During a recent trial of Thermal (Infra-Red) Drone technology at Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, the team were able to clearly identify a Bilby based on its heat signature.

 

We have also trialled this technology on Faure Island Wildlife Sanctuary (WA):

 

 

 

Conservation technology: the future

Innovations in technology are rapidly changing the way our team of scientists are working at the frontline of conservation.

We have made much headway in the use of technology over the last 12 months, and will continue to invest in tools that are transforming the way we monitor fenced areas, detect elusive species, survey wildlife populations and track reintroduced native animals through the landscape.

The challenges facing Australia’s biodiversity are immense, but we’re scaling up our actions to protect threatened wildlife by continually improving our application of technology. 

 

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