National showcase for world class conservation research

LJMU’s ground-breaking research – Conservation AI – features in a

on UK world-class innovation.

The STFC is part of UKRI and exists to support fundamental research in astronomy, physics, computational science and space science and has created a series of videos to showcase ‘Science with Impact’.

Opening with the header: ‘When astrophysics and artificial intelligence meet environmental conservation’, the video tells the evolution of Conservation AI, now seen globally as a major advance in monitoring wildlife populations.

It features Serge Wich, Professor of Primatology, who says the story began when he started flying drones with thermal cameras to spot wildlife in forested environments and at night.

“I soon realised that I was not an expert in the interpretation of the data but by chance Steven Longmore, Professor of Astrophysics at LJMU said he might be able to help.”

“It turned out that techniques we developed in astrophysics are well suited in helping count animals in conservation footage,” explained Steven.

Professor Paul Fergus of the LJMU School of Computer Science and Mathematics also stepped in with colleague Dr Carl Chalmers to apply machine learning techniques which enabled vastly quicker identification of species from the footage.

It works he says by looking into the thermal footage for heat signatures: “Once you train algorithms to spot those signatures, you can filter the data and greatly reduce the amount of data you have to process.

He proudly adds: “We’re the first team in the world to actually capture pangolins on cameras using artificial intelligence; it’s never been done before.”

Added Professor Wich: “We tested the technology in search and rescue to find people in forests or in the water. The drones are spotting people and animals that an optical camera might not.”

The team add that they’ve been supported by LJMU and by UKRI: “EPSRC and STFC funding has enabled us to carry out our work to build what was in the lab and take it out to tackle real conservation problems,” they say.


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