Bears can be very frightening when you see one wandering around in your backyard or in a local park, but does giving a bear a name and face ID make it seem less intimidating and more cute, like this bear?
Well… that’s not the purpose of this project. While using “Noninvasive technologies to identify and monitor bears [to facilitate] their conservation” the BearID project is something that is all brand new to the world and might help keep bears alive.
Two Silicon Valley techies thought of the idea while sitting down watching Brooks Falls Live Cam and taking classes on deep learning. They wanted to combine the interests of deep learning and the live camera recording of the bears to develop a deep learning application which automatically identify bears from photos or videos.
The brains behind this extraordinarily sensational project are Melanie Clapham, Ed Miller and Mary Nguyen. Each has years of experience and are heavily qualified to take on this kind of project. Nguyen and Miller are the Directors and Software Developers for the BearID project, and Clapham is also a Director and Conservation Scientist.
Why are bears threatened though? Endangered.org reports that the regular habits of bears are “destroyed by logging, mining, oil and gas drilling and land development…human caused mortality is the number one threat to grizzly bears.”
According to virginia.gov, the most common food attractants are bird feeders, garbage, and pet food, but grills, livestock feeds, compost, fruit trees, and beehives. Bears can come around any time of the year, but are more common in the spring.
Bears don’t naturally trust humans, but if problems are not resolved in time they will come to trust humans and not stop eating those unnatural foods. If it comes down to it, bears might have to be shot and killed so it is important to keep them out of neighborhoods.
Why should we be trying to save bears? According to BearSmart.com, they play an incredibly important role in the environment. They are good indicator species, they help to clean up carcasses and, as predators, they help keep populations such as deer and moose in balance. Additionally, they spread seeds when they eat fruits and nuts.
Developers of the BearID project will also be tying in the usage of deep learning . This is an artificial intelligence function imitating the operations of the brain when processing data and creating patterns for decision making.
The camera traps and the utilization of deep learning will largely reduce the amount of time it takes for bear researchers to manually analyze data. “Applying this technology to camera trap imagery would provide scientists with a new technique to monitor wild populations of brown bears and ask a wider variety of applied research questions” states the BEAR ID website.
Meet the Bears! These are the bears that will be monitored over time to track changes in facial characteristics.
Most students at Avonworth haven’t had a face to face experience with bears, especially in their backyard. But some students have been near enough. Freshman Colin Brady’s experience was on a camping trip with Boy Scouts. They were not anywhere remote and still close to home, but they looked into the woods nearby and saw a black bear walking out of the woods. When hearing about this project, he said “That is so cool I never would have thought of that…that is such a good idea and super humane and just fantastic.” This is largely the response I got from everyone I talked to. This would have never been on any of our minds at this day in age. Problems with wildlife conservation are largely ignored, constantly pushed aside and labeled as unimportant to make light of other issues in the world. As this project continues to make advancements, I hope we can use this technology to save other wildlife that is on its way to extinction.