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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Seabird surveillance: combining CCTV and artificial intelligence for monitoring and research

Hentati-Sundberg, Jonas; Olin, Agnes B.; Reddy, Sheetal; Berglund, Per-Arvid; Svensson, Erik; Reddy, Mareddy; Kasarareni, Siddharta; Carlsen, Astrid A.; Hanes, Matilda; Kad, Shreyash; Olsson, Olof


Ecological research and monitoring need to be able to rapidly convey information that can form the basis of scientifically sound management. Automated sensor systems, especially if combined with artificial intelligence, can contribute to such rapid high-resolution data retrieval. Here, we explore the prospects of automated methods to generate insights for seabirds, which are often monitored for their high conservation value and for being sentinels for marine ecosystem changes. We have developed a system of video surveillance combined with automated image processing, which we apply to common murres Uria aalge. The system uses a deep learning algorithm for object detection (YOLOv5) that has been trained on annotated images of adult birds, chicks and eggs, and outputs time, location, size and confidence level of all detections, frame-by-frame, in the supplied video material. A total of 144 million bird detections were generated from a breeding cliff over three complete breeding seasons (2019-2021). We demonstrate how object detection can be used to accurately monitor breeding phenology and chick growth. Our automated monitoring approach can also identify and quantify rare events that are easily missed in traditional monitoring, such as disturbances from predators. Further, combining automated video analysis with continuous measurements from a temperature logger allows us to study impacts of heat waves on nest attendance in high detail. Our automated system thus produces comparable, and in several cases significantly more detailed, data than those generated from observational field studies. By running in real time on the camera streams, it has the potential to supply researchers and managers with high-resolution up-to-date information on seabird population status. We describe how the system can be modified to fit various types of ecological research and monitoring goals and thereby provide up-to-date support for conservation and ecosystem management.


Artificial intelligence; machine learning; monitoring; object detection; seabirds

Published in

Remote sensing in ecology and conservation
2023, Volume: 9, number: 4, pages: 568 - 581
Publisher: WILEY