In order to identify animals and birds and to track their movements in the wild, researchers have constructed arrays of AI-controlled cameras and microphones. This technology, according to the researchers, should assist address Britain’s rising biodiversity crisis.
The robot monitors have been tested at three different locations and have recorded noises and photos that computers have used to map the positions of various species and identify them. Numerous bird species were recognized based on their songs, and AI analysis was used to locate and identify foxes, deer, hedgehogs, and bats. There are no human observers present.
The size of the operation is significant, according to Anthony Dancer, a conservationist with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). “From these test areas, we have collected tens of thousands of data files and thousands of hours of audio, and we have identified a wide variety of creatures from them. Using human observers at that size would not have been possible. It was only made possible by AI.
The project’s test locations were selected on land next to rail lines in London’s Barnes, Twickenham, and Lewisham. The sections are gated off to prevent people from wandering onto the tracks and are only sometimes visited by track maintenance personnel. They are owned by Network Rail, which was instrumental in the project’s conception.
Therefore, it was simple to access relatively untamed territory, which was crucial for commencing our project, according to Dancer.
And now that we have shown the technology to deliver on its promise, we may move on to other domains.
More than 52,000 hectares of land are owned by Network Rail, and many of these parcels are important for preserving the country’s biodiversity.
Consider species like the Eurasian blackcap, blackbird, and great tit, suggested Neil Strong, Network Rail’s biodiversity strategy manager. All three species were identified by AI from the acoustic signals gathered by our sensors at our three test sites.
“All three species demand healthy surroundings, including sufficient quantities of berries and nuts. That’s good and offers crucial standards for future biodiversity measurements.
Six different species of bats, including the common pipistrelle, were among the other critters the AI monitors located.
The dancer told the Observer that “Bats almost certainly use railway bridges for roosting.” Therefore, we can aid in their protection if we can use AI monitors to get more precise information on the precise locations of their roots.
Strong emphasized this point. “In the past, we’ve had to make educated guesses about the numbers of local species based on the dead creatures that have been left by the track or the side of the road, such badgers. In this method, we are considerably better able to estimate population sizes.
The investigation also revealed that the hedgehog travels on UK train lines on a regular basis. Because they are caged in, hedgehogs are severely restricted to areas, according to Strong. But there are workarounds for that issue. Hedgehog highways are being built on rail lines in Scotland by making tiny holes in the bases of all newly installed fences to allow for hedgehog passage but prevent larger animals from entering.
The New Forest and Chobham in Surrey will now be included in the expansion of the usage of AI monitors by ZSL and Network Rail. “We were pleasantly surprised with the relatively healthy levels of wildlife we found in London,” said Dancer.”
“On the sites that we have already tested, we found signs of more than 30 species of bird and six species of bat, as well as foxes and hedgehogs.” “However, that wasn’t actually the project’s major goal.”
The objective was to demonstrate how AI-driven technology, in conjunction with acoustic and camera traps, may be used to efficiently survey wildlife on Network Rail property as well as in other UK locations.
It will explain how species are changing in response to climate change and how we can manage vegetation in other areas besides only next to rail lines.
The key idea is that, as the nation’s climate changes, artificial intelligence (AI) will be essential for preserving biodiversity.
According to Strong, “this technology will necessitate the analysis of hundreds of thousands of images and tens of thousands of hours of recordings.” “Really, the only thing that computers can do for us is that.”