New website aims to gather all those camera trap mugs of wildlife

Read the full story in Science.

Camera traps—automated cameras that snap a picture whenever an animal walks by—have become an indispensable tool for wildlife biologists, helping them study behavior and estimate populations. But each trap can generate thousands of photos, and researchers often don’t have the time to sort through all the images, pick out their study subjects, and toss the “bycatch”—all the other critters that get their portraits taken. As a result, there are countless “hard drives around the world full of very, very useful data just sitting there, unused,” says Margaret Kinnaird, a wildlife practice leader at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C.

Today, Google Earth, WWF, and other conservation organizations are launching an online database that aims to change that. Wildlife Insights will allow users to upload camera trap images and then have software powered by artificial intelligence analyze them. Users will be able to ask the system to search for their animal of interest, and all of the images will be publicly available. That could be a huge help to researchers, Kinnaird says, saving time and putting a global data set within easy reach.

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