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Advancing Conservation through AI Technology

Image Credits: CSIRO, Press Release

At depths below the ocean’s surface, reaching hundreds of meters, a fascinating array of marine creatures thrive amidst the absence of sunlight. These remarkable deep-sea coral reefs provide a habitat for an astonishing diversity of bottom-dwelling species, including squat lobsters, sea spiders, crabs, brittlestars, and soft corals, among numerous others.

Deep-sea coral reefs possess a paradoxical nature, as they are both sturdy and delicate, susceptible to damage from the trawling nets dragged across the seabed by industrial fishing vessels. Once these vulnerable marine ecosystems are harmed, their recovery is a slow process. Consequently, the mapping and monitoring of these reefs have become of utmost importance to scientists, conservationists, and sustainable fisheries, aiming to safeguard and preserve these precious habitats.

The task of observing the seabed presents a formidable and expensive challenge. However, one solution that has emerged is the use of image-based surveys. This method entails trailing a setup of cameras behind a vessel to capture high-resolution images of the seabed. While the process of capturing these images is relatively straightforward, the subsequent step of analysing and interpreting each frame poses a significant undertaking for scientists.

During this review process, scientists meticulously examine each image frame by frame, aiming to discern various features of the seafloor. Their primary objective is to differentiate established coral from other elements such as coral debris, rubble originating from other living organisms, sand, gravel, and rocks. This intricate task requires careful scrutiny and expertise to accurately identify and classify the distinct components captured in the images.

Deep learning aids deep sea monitoring

The aforementioned time-consuming and labour-intensive process presents a significant bottleneck, constraining the available data for making informed decisions regarding the effectiveness of strategies aimed at protecting deep-sea coral reefs.

Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in addressing this challenge. Researchers have developed a deep learning system that possesses the capability to analyse images and swiftly identify and measure deep-sea coral reefs, surpassing human efficiency.

Comprising a multi-layered network of artificial neurons, the system emulates the functioning of the human brain by acquiring the ability to discern intricate patterns within datasets. By leveraging this AI technology, the identification and measurement of deep-sea coral reefs can be accomplished in a fraction of the time required by humans.

According to Chris Jackett, a research scientist at CSIRO and one of the authors of the study, the deep learning system has demonstrated remarkable speed and accuracy. Jackett highlighted that the trained model successfully classified over 2,300 images in under 20 minutes, a task that would typically require more than three months for a person to accomplish.

The deep learning system was trained to distinguish between six seafloor features, including established coral, coral rubble, rubble from other living organisms, sand or mud, pebble or gravel, and rock, achieving an impressive accuracy rate of 98.19%. Remarkably, in certain cases, the model exhibited more consistent performance than a human observer.

The training process utilized images collected from the RV Investigator, which undertook a voyage off the southern coast of Tasmania in 2018. A deep tow camera system was employed, capturing continuous video and taking photos every five seconds at depths ranging from 600 to 1,800 meters below the ocean’s surface.

Researchers manually reviewed approximately 6,000 photos, which were then utilized to train the deep learning system. The initial dataset comprised a massive collection of 140,000 data points or “snips.”

The data used for training the deep learning system turned out to be “noisy,” as a significant number of snips contained a mix of various features, had issues with lighting (being too dark or too light), or were affected by photobombing from local fauna like seastars or urchins.

The researchers undertook the task of cleaning the data, reducing it to approximately 70,000 snips that met the necessary criteria for the model to learn effectively. They conducted experiments with different training methodologies and network structures until they discovered a combination that achieved an impressive accuracy rate of 98.18%.

During the testing phase, the final deep learning model exhibited comparable performance to a human observer when confronted with uncleaned data that it had never encountered before. The model consistently demonstrated accuracy, even in scenarios involving complex images with multiple features that can pose challenges for human classification.

AI accelerates the process, but human involvement remains vital. Chris Jackett suggests combining human input with the deep learning model for efficient analysis of new images. AI aids in protecting fragile ecosystems like deep-sea coral reefs, benefiting deep-sea fisheries and addressing conservation challenges in our oceans.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.