Colorful underwater world

Twenty-five years ago, lionfish started invading coastal waters in the Americas, and the species is now causing damage to the local ecosystems from Venezuela, through the Caribbean, and up the East Coast of the United States. Since most of these fish are genetically similar, the theory goes that a few private fish collectors dumped their fish in the water, and now we have a problem: these fish can lay 30,000 eggs every five days, local prey aren’t scared of them because they still don’t recognize them as predators, and lionfish have no natural predators in these foreign waters.

But humans could become their main predators because these fish are tasty—and they sell for up to $20 a pound at upscale restaurants, when scuba divers can get to them. However, there aren’t enough scuba divers fishing for them, and these fish hideout in spots much deeper than humans can go. Enter stage right: an untethered, autonomous, underwater robot powered by machine learning aims to hunt these fish. Students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute are training the robot to use computer vision to recognize what a lionfish is and then to run it through with a spear.

Cockroaches on a rock

If there’s anything more terrifying than artificial intelligence being used by an authoritarian state to control it’s citizens, it’s probably this: AI being used to optimize breeding and living conditions for cockroaches. Yes, it’s true. In China, a pharmaceutical company breeds cockroaches—in fact, currently 6,000,000,000 cockroaches. There are so many that the company says if they were released all at once, it would cause a catastrophe.

So why are they doing this? (Skip if you have a sensitive stomach.) Because 40 million people in China drink a potion that calls for crushed cockroaches.

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

Elephant spraying itself

When elephants have tuberculosis (TB), they often don’t show the symptoms for it. In fact, the disease can remain dormant in an elephant for years before it’s detected. It also spreads from elephant to elephant, and since these animals are very social and zoos frequently trade them, the spread of TB is hard to control. It’s very expensive to test and treat elephants for TB, so it can be hard for zookeepers to track its spread.

Now a new machine learning model is tracking the disease better than any prior method. While a six percent increase in accuracy through this model may seem like only a small step forward, it can still save cash-strapped zoos a lot of money in testing and treatment. This machine learning tool draws from 20 years of elephant TB data, improving the odds of predicting which elephants are more likely to have the disease.

Photo by Andrew Rice on Unsplash

If you’ve ever been involved in a thermostat war, you know how hard it is to keep the temperature of your dwelling comfortable for you. The Nyala antelope feel your pain. They like a hot dwelling, and this British zoo that houses them wants them to be in the hotter temperatures they like—but it also wants to pay a lower energy bill while heating the enclosure. So they’re letting an algorithm decide when to turn on the heat lamps, instead of leaving them on all the time. This application uses image processing to identify when the Nyala antelope are inside their enclosure, and then it turns up the heat. It’s right 95 percent of the time, and they hope to up the accuracy.

Photo Found Here:

In the cover of night, when poachers seek their fortunes by killing forbidden treasures, like rhinos and elephants and big cats, this unmanned, autonomous drone uses a combo of infrared and AI to identify, watch, and follow humans. The aim is to help authorities catch the ignominious poachers. The creators hope to get the drone into the hands of park rangers in African National Parks.
This drone tech belongs to a group called Air Shepherd, which may bring to mind the group Sea Shepherd from Whale Wars. The shared shepherd name conjures up an image of plucky conservationists hunting and confronting pirates and poachers. But the Air Shepherd org seems to be more likely to operate inside the law than the controversial Sea Shepherd.

Watch how the drone works here:

When it costs a chunk of change to hire an aircraft in order to spy on the oceans for the vulnerable dugong (essentially a manatee with a split tail), these researchers decide to let drones do the work for them. They send the drones to take pictures of the Australian oceans in search of dugong. But in next steps, identifying dugong in the hundreds of returned photos can be a maddening monotonous task. This is where AI does the heavy lifting and helps flag pictures with dugong for the researchers.

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Imagine that your job is to look out a small window all day, every day and count fish that swim by. Not only that, you have to identify the fish species and its size. Fortunately for bored fish counters, there’s now an AI for that.

Photo by Carl Findahl on Unsplash