AI is on track to transform Australia’s conservation efforts

Wildlife sounds recorded by anyone from amateur hikers to university researchers can now be identified using artificial intelligence.

On Tuesday, Google Australia and Queensland University of Technology, working under the Digital Future Initiative, announced the launch of A20 Search, a search engine that analyses and identifies wildlife recordings using Google AI.

The collaboration was announced earlier this year and is part of Google’s $1 billion investment in Australian infrastructure, research and partnerships.

The A20 database will allow researchers to search wildlife audio with ease, which can be a key indicator of the health of an environment, and could potentially help inform conservation decisions.

“You have to understand the environment before you can protect it and bringing ecology and computer science together like this is the key,” said Professor Paul Roe, head of QUT’s School of Computer Science and the lead researcher at the Australian Acoustics Observatory.

Roe said that A20 will “liberate the data collected in the field”, as people won’t need to sift through hundreds of years of data that “we could not live long enough to go through”, with AI doing the work instead.

“The reduced costs of the technology transformed environmental monitoring which has consequently transformed environmental conservation,” he said.

“Partnering with Google Australia allows us to share this technology with other scientists and researchers, which in turn will help land managers make informed decisions about conservation, management, and biodiversity protection.”

pictured is A20

People are able to upload audio clips to A20 to identify what animals can be heard.

How does A20 work?

A20 is an open-source platform, meaning anyone will be able to upload audio recordings of species to try and find similar sounds that are already in the database.

Users will also be able to filter by location and date and download the results for other systems.

Google’s AI will analyse raw audio data in real-time to identify species in a recording with “efficiency and accuracy”.

Individuals, non-profits, universities and governments will be able to search through hours of audio from the Australian Acoustics Observatory.

“As the A2O collection expands, audio search will offer a richer, fuller view into changing Australian ecosystems,” Tom Denton, a software engineer at Google said in a blog post.

“With the threat of deforestation, invasive species and bushfires, improving access to information that might aid conservation efforts is more crucial and valuable than ever.”

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