AI is helping scientists tackle the UK’s biodiversity problem

AI-powered cameras and microphones are monitoring the activity of animals in the wild.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Bats in the wild.jpg
Bats in the wild.


AI-powered cameras and microphones are being used to help the UK in its attempts to monitor a growing biodiversity problem and have proven extremely useful at pinpointing a variety of species and their natural habitats.

This is according to a report by The Guardian published on Sunday.

The article noted that the new tech is being used to identify animals and birds and to monitor their movements in the wild without any human interference.

Sounds and images

Set up at three different sites in Britain, the cameras and microphones have thus far captured sounds and images that have allowed computers to pinpoint a variety of species along with their precise locations. 

“The crucial point is the scale of the operation,” told The Guardian Anthony Dancer, a conservation specialist at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). 

“We have captured tens of thousands of data files and thousands of hours of audio from these test sites and identified all sorts of animals from them. We couldn’t have done it at that scale using human observers. Only AI made it possible.”

The areas where the experiments are taking place have been fenced off to ensure the wildlife is not disturbed or influenced by human activity.

“Access to relatively wild land was therefore easy – an important factor for starting our project,” further told The Guardian Dancer.

“And now that we have demonstrated the technology’s promise, we can expand to other areas.”

“Take birds like the Eurasian blackcap, blackbird and great tit,” told The Guardian Neil Strong, biodiversity strategy manager for Network Rail which owns the project’s test sites.

 “All three species require healthy environments – including good supplies of berries and nuts – and all three were detected by AI from the acoustic signals collected by our sensors at our three test sites. That is encouraging and provides important benchmarks for measuring biodiversity in future.”

Healthy levels of wildlife

The AI tech has also spotted many types of animals in the city of London.

"On the sites that we have already tested, we found signs of more than 30 species of bird and six species of bat, as well as foxes and hedgehogs, so we were pleasantly surprised with the relatively healthy levels of wildlife we found in London,” Dancer told The Guardian.

As such, the project aims to showcase the power of AI technology to aid in biodiversity efforts.

“The aim was to show that AI-led technology – linked with acoustic and camera traps – could be used effectively to survey wildlife on Network Rail land but also in other areas in the UK. It will tell us how species are moving in response to climate change and how we should be managing vegetation, not just beside rail lines but on road verges and other places," Strong told The Guardian.