Wildlife Insights is the first tool of its kind, using artificial intelligence and the power of big data to provide scientists an unequaled view into the habits and habitats of wildlife, data that is critical for crafting smart conservation policies.
It starts with animal “selfies.”
Used by researchers in forests and natural areas around the world, motion-detector cameras — known as camera traps — snap thousands of photos a day of animals rarely seen by human eyes. As the largest camera-trap database in the world, Wildlife Insights has the potential to transform wildlife conservation by providing reliable, frequent and up-to-date information on myriad species that are largely invisible to science and conservation practitioners.
How it works
Wildlife Insights users — that includes the public, from citizen scientists to teachers to children — can explore millions of camera-trap images from across the globe collected by leading wildlife conservation organizations, museums, scientific institutions and private citizens. Users have the ability to filter images by species, country and year and download data instantly.
Artificial intelligence technology developed by Google also helps camera-trap researchers to identify species in a fraction of a second, dramatically speeding up the pace at which this information can be processed and analyzed, making data available for decision-makers in near real-time.
The data challenge
The more camera traps there are, the more species selfies there are to sort through — but this ability to collect data is only as useful as humans’ ability to sift through it. Historically, the process has been painstaking and time-consuming, requiring someone to manually review the photos, which can number in the thousands.
Compounding the issue: Camera traps don’t discriminate — they automatically snap candid shots of any creature that comes into view, resulting in sometimes substantial amounts of “by-catch” data that is rarely shared, depriving other scientists of the opportunity to see or analyze it.
How Wildlife Insights is different
Wildlife Insights is the next evolutionary phase of the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network, a partnership formerly led by Conservation International that placed camera traps throughout tropical forests. TEAM will continue to generate data that will now live on the Wildlife Insights platform.
Thanks to the combination of advanced technology, data sharing, interinstitutional partnerships and science-based analytics, analysis that used to take months now takes minutes with Wildlife Insights.
The platform offers a crucial incentive for persuading scientists to share their photos: unrivaled processing power. Working with Google, the platform has developed machine learning algorithms to automatically identify and tag species — even repeat images of the same animal, in some cases — far faster than any human can.
Any Wildlife Insight products and other add-ons will be shared, as well as the camera-trap photos themselves, under Creative Commons licenses, with an exception for data being used in not-yet-published research.
Additionally, the exact locations of illegally hunted and endangered species will be obscured to prevent poachers from using the data for illicit purposes.
How the data can be used
Managers of protected areas or anti-poaching programs can gauge the health of specific species, while governments can use wildlife data to inform policies and businesses can confirm that they are responsibly managing the impacts of their activities on local environments.
Organizations working to restore forests to mitigate climate change can ensure that wildlife — a crucial part of a healthy ecosystem — is also coming back.
Indigenous communities that depend directly on wildlife — and the “ecosystem services” that those species provide, such as pest control and pollination — can monitor animals in a new way.
Explainer video (5:08)
Biodiversity is in crisis. A recent UN report predicts we may see as many as 1 million species extincts, many as soon as within the decade. Wildlife Insights is a new Google Cloud -based platform that applies AI to identify animals in images from camera traps placed in the wild. AI helps reduce the arduous manual work of sifting through millions of camera trap images and helps biologists spend more time actually working to study and protect wildlife. Watch the full-length documentary to learn how it’s being used in Colombia to measure the effects of deforestation on wildlife: https://youtu.be/zsiTx5qjn7c Subscribe to our Channel: https://www.youtube.com/google Tweet with us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/google Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/google Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Google
“Eyes In The Forest” documentary (18:53)
Colombia is a megadiverse country. Since the demobilization of the FARC in 2017, biologists have been able to re-enter areas they could not visit during times of conflict. What they discover is not what they expected. Follow along the journey of field biologist Angélica Diaz-Pulido from Instituto Humboldt and Jorge Ahumada, a conservation biologist of Conservation International, as they visit the renowned rainbow river in remote Colombia, on a mission to understand, using camera traps, the beautiful wildlife in remote areas of Colombia. Wildlife Insights is a new platform to streamline the work of biologists like Angélica, applying technology and Google’s AI to monitor wildlife. Visit http://www.wildlifeinsights.org to learn more. Credits Camera Trap Images © Angélica Diaz-Pulido / Instituto Humboldt © Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF © Will Burrard-Lucas / WWF © Courtesy of TEAM Network © eMammal Google Earth Timelapse © Google Earth Timelapse (Google, Landsat, Copernicus) Global Forest Watch Imagery © Global Forest Watch FARC Footage “Archival FARC footage” by NotimexTV / CC BY 2.0 Produced by Google VizLab Director / Producer: Ryan Ffrench Executive Producer: James Mulcahy Producers: Filippo Brunamonti, Anaka Kaundinya Editor: Skot Coatsworth DP: Michael Moghaddam Camera / Drone: Page Stephenson Fixers: Pablo Tourrenc & Tomas Chaves at Fixer Colombia Pre Production Supervisor: Margaret Parsons Additional Camera: Yura Makarov Color: George Costakis at Pinata Post Sound Recording: Pablo Tourrenc, Sebastian Guerrero & Matthew Ritterpusch Sound Mix: Noah Woodburn Music: Kyle Baker, Britt Brady, Matthew Stephens & Skot Coatsworth at Version 9 Thanks to: Caño Cristales: Armando Lopez, Nidia Montero Laguna, Mario Fidel Alfonso, Jose Crisanto Alfonso, Gladys Sanchez Gutierrez. IAvH: Hernando García, José Manuel Ochoa, Brigitte Baptiste, Angélica Diaz-Pulido, Orlando Acevedo. UN Foundation: Thomas Lovejoy
Wildlife Insights is a partnership between Conservation International, Google, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, World Wide Fund for Nature, the Zoological Society of London and Yale University’s Map of Life.
Senior Wildlife Conservation Scientist and Wildlife Insights Executive Director, Conservation International
Wildlife Insights Program Manager, Conservation International