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An evaluation of platforms for processing camera-trap data using artificial intelligence

Vélez, J, McShea, W, Shamon, H, Castiblanco-Camacho, PJ, Tabak, MA, Chalmers, C, Fergus, P and Fieberg, J (2022) An evaluation of platforms for processing camera-trap data using artificial intelligence. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 14 (2). pp. 459-477. ISSN 2041-210X

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Camera traps have quickly transformed the way in which many ecologists study the distribution of wildlife species, their activity patterns and interactions among members of the same ecological community. Although they provide a cost-effective method for monitoring multiple species over large spatial and temporal scales, the time required to process the data can limit the efficiency of camera-trap surveys. Thus, there has been considerable attention given to the use of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically deep learning, to help process camera-trap data. Using deep learning for these applications involves training algorithms, such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs), to use particular features in the camera-trap images to automatically detect objects (e.g. animals, humans, vehicles) and to classify species. To help overcome the technical challenges associated with training CNNs, several research communities have recently developed platforms that incorporate deep learning in easy-to-use interfaces. We review key characteristics of four AI platforms—Conservation AI, MegaDetector, MLWIC2: Machine Learning for Wildlife Image Classification and Wildlife Insights—and two auxiliary platforms—Camelot and Timelapse—that incorporate AI output for processing camera-trap data. We compare their software and programming requirements, AI features, data management tools and output format. We also provide R code and data from our own work to demonstrate how users can evaluate model performance. We found that species classifications from Conservation AI, MLWIC2 and Wildlife Insights generally had low to moderate recall. Yet, the precision for some species and higher taxonomic groups was high, and MegaDetector and MLWIC2 had high precision and recall when classifying images as either ‘blank’ or ‘animal’. These results suggest that most users will need to review AI predictions, but that AI platforms can improve efficiency of camera-trap-data processing by allowing users to filter their dataset into subsets (e.g. of certain taxonomic groups or blanks) that can be verified using bulk actions. By reviewing features of popular AI-powered platforms and sharing an open-source GitBook that illustrates how to manage AI output to evaluate model performance, we hope to facilitate ecologists' use of AI to process camera-trap data.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0502 Environmental Science and Management; 0602 Ecology; 0603 Evolutionary Biology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology > T Technology (General)
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Computer Science & Mathematics
Publisher: Wiley
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 16 May 2023 11:53
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 12:00
DOI or ID number: 10.1111/2041-210X.14044
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19506
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