If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently asked UK families to help scientists monitor biodiversity trends by identifying species in their gardens using iNaturalist's Seek app. Participants were able to measure everything from birds and insects to plants, flowers and fungi through the app's artificial intelligence (AI) technology, with the findings used to build a better picture of the nation's wildlife. This is just one example of AI's use in conservation; far larger projects, involving satellite imagery and machine learning, are giving scientists unprecedented insights into the natural world. "The application of AI in wildlife protection is full of infinite potential," a WWF spokesperson tells me. "It can not only improve protection efficiency, but also help protection managers better understand the implementation of their own protected areas."
World Wildlife Fund for Nature Indonesia (WWF-Indonesia) is on a mission to save critically endangered orangutans in Indonesia. According to WWF, Bornean orangutan populations have declined by more than 50% over the past 60 years and the species' habitat has been reduced by at least 55% over the past 20 years. Severe declines in the orangutan population native to Indonesia and Malaysia can be traced directly back to humans and their cruel poaching and illegal pet trade practices, as well as causing the destruction of habitats. As orangutans are largely solitary and spend much of their lives in trees, conservation efforts to accurately measure remaining populations are complicated and time-consuming, WWF-Indonesia explained. In an attempt to accelerate efforts to save the orangutans, WWF-Indonesia has turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to use machine learning services to better understand the size and health of orangutan populations in their native habitat.
Today, April 22, 2020, is Earth Day. Accenture, Intel and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation announced Project: CORaiL, an artificial intelligence (AI) - powered solution to monitor, characterize and analyze coral reef resilience. Since May 2019, it's been deployed to the reef surrounding Pangatalan Island, Philipines. Researchers have been using the 40,000 images collected to study the effects of climate change in the area. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, coral reefs protect coastlines from tropical storms, provide food and income for 1 billion people, and generate $9.6 billion in tourism and recreation.
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.
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.
A week ago today, millions of students took to the streets to protest the lack of action governments are taking to combat climate change. On Monday, 16-year-old Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg made an intense and emotionally charged speech at the United Nations, begging world leaders to step up their commitment to protecting the planet's future. Headlines around the world echo her rallying cry, accusing our leaders of failing us. I wholeheartedly agree that governments can, and should, do more to confront climate change. But I have been equally curious about how cutting-edge technology is being used to fight and shelter against the effects of global warming.
A robotic ship from the University of New Hampshire's Marine School that can map the ocean floor is part of the latest effort to find out what happened to famed pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean eight decades ago. The autonomous vessel, known as BEN, the Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator, will be mapping the seafloor near the island where Earhart sent her last radio transmission. The area is too deep for divers and too shallow for safe navigation by deep-water sonar systems. Maps produced by BEN will be used to target later dives by remotely operated vehicles, searching for remnants of Earhart's plane. The work is part of the mission led by oceanographer Robert Ballard, best known for finding the wreck of the Titanic, to look into the disappearance of Earhart in 1937.
It's always cool to see lionfish while snorkeling or scuba diving. They're spectacular-looking, and because they're covered in flamboyant spines, they're usually secure enough in their invincibility that they'll mostly just sit there and let you get close to them. Lionfish don't make for very good oceanic neighbors, though, and in places where they're an invasive species and have few native predators (like most of the Atlantic coast of the United States), they do their best to eat anything that moves while breeding almost continuously. A single lionfish per reef reduced young juvenile fish populations by 79 percent in only a five-week period. Many species were affected, including cardinalfish, parrotfish, damselfish, and others.
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.
The alleged effects of climate change are reportedly responsible for coral reef bleaching, which is having catastrophic impacts on local marine species. Hoping to reverse this supposed trend, a new method of artificial intelligence (AI) cataloguing designed to identify the geographic regions where coral still thrives, aims to save some of the world's densest and varies aquatic ecosystems. Between ethical and economic concerns, there are plenty of reasons why saving our world's coral reef systems are in our best interest. Aside from providing habitat to a quarter of marine species, reefs generate $375 billion (USD) in revenue to the world economy, along with food security to over 500 million people. Without our ocean's reefs, researchers believe countless species and an entire ocean fishing industry would cease to exist.