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CSIRO and Microsoft to use AI to tackle man-made environmental problems

ZDNet

It is estimated that as much as 12 million tons of plastic find their way into rivers and oceans each year, representing a huge threat to wildlife and the environment. It's one of the major challenges the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is looking to address, using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to interpret data collected during beach and ocean surveys along with videos of rivers and stormwater drains to identify and track garbage flows into waterways. Inking a partnership with Microsoft, Australia's scientific agency will look at how to tackle plastic waste, as well as illegal fishing, and how it can help boost farming. By collecting data about the spread and concentration of plastic, CSIRO is using AI and ML to analyse where the plastic might end up and also what steps can be taken on land to reduce the likelihood of plastic entering waterways and oceans. "Reverse vending machines", where the public can recycle bottles and cans in return for a fee, is also on the list for exploration.


For Earth Day, a tech team develops a way to heal coral reefs using AI

#artificialintelligence

Coral reefs are an essential element in our global ecosystem, offering shelter to a quarter of marine life and providing a food source, income, and coastal buffer to over 500 million people across the globe. Yet because of rising ocean temperatures, which results in coral bleaching (check out TechRepublic's coverage of how tech is helping protect the Great Barrier Reef) as well as overfishing and reckless coastal development, coral reefs are endangered: Half of the Great Barrier Reef is dead. Today, to celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day, Intel, Accenture, and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation (SEF) present Project: CORaiL. The joint initiative will use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) "to monitor, recreate, and restore coral reefs," according to the release. To gauge the reef health, Project: CORail calculated the number and type of fish in a reef.


Swim with the sharks in Brisbane's very own Great Barrier Reef

#artificialintelligence

Queensland is now home to a second Great Barrier Reef, allowing children and adults alike the ability to interact with the world's largest coral reef system without leaving the city. The Living Reef is the brainchild of game developers and researchers at the Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) The Cube in Brisbane. Large 10-metre-tall screens are educating visitors about the creatures of the reef as well as the environmental issues it faces now and into the future. The team is one of the first in the world to use a system where coral was grown with a method called the space colonisation algorithm to help mimic nature. "We created a system where we could grow coral mathematically using simulation software," Cube studio manager Simon Harrison said.


Robot makes world-first baby coral delivery to Great Barrier Reef

Robohub

In a world first, an undersea robot has dispersed microscopic baby corals (coral larvae) to help scientists working to repopulate parts of the Great Barrier Reef during this year's mass coral spawning event. Professor Dunbabin engineered QUT's reef protector RangerBot into LarvalBot specifically for the coral restoration project led by Professor Harrison. The project builds on Professor Harrison's successful larval reseeding technique piloted on the southern Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service (QPWS), following successful small scale trials in the Philippines funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. "This year represents a big step up for our larval restoration research and the first time we've been able to capture coral spawn on a bigger scale using large floating spawn catchers then rearing them into tiny coral larvae in our specially constructed larval pools and settling them on damaged reef areas," Professor Harrison said. "Winning the GBRF's Reef Innovation Challenge meant that we could increase the scale of the work planned for this year using mega-sized spawn catchers and fast track an initial trial of LarvalBot as a novel method of dispersing the coral larvae out on to the Reef. "With further research and refinement, this technique has enormous potential to operate across large areas of reef and multiple sites in a way that hasn't previously been possible.


Australia unleashes starfish-killing robot to protect Great Barrier Reef

The Japan Times

SYDNEY – A robot submarine able to hunt and kill the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish that are devastating the Great Barrier Reef was unveiled by Australian researchers on Friday. Scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) said the robot, named the RangerBot and developed with a grant from Google, would serve as a "robo reef protector" for the vast World Heritage site off Australia's northeastern coast. The RangerBot has an eight-hour battery life and computer vision capabilities allowing it to monitor and map reef areas at scales not previously possible. "RangerBot is the world's first underwater robotic system designed specifically for coral reef environments, using only robot-vision for real-time navigation, obstacle avoidance and complex science missions," said Matthew Dunbabin, the QUT professor who unveiled the submarine. "This multifunction ocean drone can monitor a wide range of issues facing coral reefs including coral bleaching, water quality, pest species, pollution and siltation."


Underwater GPS Inspired by Shrimp Eyes

IEEE Spectrum Robotics

A diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef may have unlocked a new way to build a GPS-like sensor that works underwater. The device is based on recent scientific understanding of how marine animals sense their geolocation based on the signature polarization patterns of light entering the water. A few years ago, U.S. and Australian researchers developed a special camera inspired by the eyes of mantis shrimp that can see the polarization patterns of light waves, which resemble those in a rope being waved up and down. That means the bio-inspired camera can detect how light polarization patterns change once the light enters the water and gets deflected or scattered. Those researchers now realize that they can use those underwater polarization patterns to deduce the sun's position--and use that to figure out the location of the camera itself.


The Year In Science: From Gravitational Waves To CRISPR, Here Are The Biggest Science Newsmakers Of 2016

International Business Times

The same can be said about the world of science, which witnessed some of the biggest breakthroughs in decades, even as it provided several grim reminders about the impact of climate change on planet Earth. One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein predicted that the collision of massive objects such as black holes and neutron stars can create "ripples" in the curvature of space-time. Earlier this year, scientists associated with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) discovered these distortions. "The achievement fulfilled a 100-year-old prediction, opened up a potential new branch of astronomy, and was a stunning technological accomplishment," the journal Science, which was one of the many publications that termed the discovery of gravitational waves "Breakthrough of the Year," said in a recent statement. Currently, all we know about the cosmos is what we have gathered from electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves, visible light, infrared light, X-rays and gamma rays.


Underwater robots kill invasive fish to save the oceans

ZDNet

Autonomous underwater vehicles identify and kill invasive starfish at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Robots can help undo some of the damage that has been done to our environment. Unmanned aerial vehicles are already being used to track endangered wildlife and assist land conservation efforts by mapping ecosystems and monitoring protected areas. Meanwhile at sea, autonomous sailing drones are monitoring ocean water to detect any pollution and track changes in temperature and pH. Now, underwater robots are also working to restore biodiversity by hunting invasive species.


Big Data: Statistical Inference and Machine Learning - Queensland University of Technology

#artificialintelligence

Why is statistical inference and machine learning approaches important for analysing Big Data? To answer this question, I want to draw your attention to the world's largest coral reef system, and one of Australia's biggest natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is composed of over 2900 reefs and 900 islands, spanning over 2300km, and is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the Earth. However, because of its large size, monitoring and predicting different trends in the reef is really difficult. For example, here at QUT we're using machine learning approaches to design robots to seek out and control the damaging crown-of-thorns starfish.


The Great Barrier Reef's Best Hope Is a Killer Robot

WIRED

Crown-of-thorns starfish are the zombies of the sea. They won't die even if you cut them in half. To kill one, you must dismember it completely--or inject it with poisonous (to them) bile salts. Instead of braaains, these zombies munch coral, and off the coast of Australia, infestations of the beasts are damaging the Great Barrier Reef at an alarming rate. In development since late 2014, the underwater droid identifies and assassinates the ravenous stars--autonomously.