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Facial Recognition—Now for Seals – Hakai Magazine

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Have you ever looked at a seal and thought, Is that the same seal I saw yesterday? Well, there could soon be an app for that based on new seal facial recognition technology. Known as SealNet, this seal face-finding system was developed by a team of undergraduate students from Colgate University in New York.

Taking inspiration from other technology adapted for recognizing primates and bears, Krista Ingram, a biologist at Colgate University, led the students in developing software that uses deep learning and a convolutional neural network to tell one seal face from another. SealNet is tailored to identify the harbor seal, a species with a penchant for posing on coasts in haulouts.

The team had to train their software to identify seal faces. “I give it a photograph, it finds the face, [and] clips it to a standard size,” says Ingram. But then she and her students would manually identify the nose, the mouth, and the center of the eyes.

For the project, team members snapped more than 2,000 pictures of seals around Casco Bay, Maine, during a two-year period. They tested the software using 406 different seals and found that SealNet could correctly identify the seals’ faces 85 percent of the time. The team has since expanded its database to include around 1,500 seal faces. As the number of seals logged in the database goes up, so too should the accuracy of the identification, Ingram says.

The developers of SealNet trained a neural network to tell harbor seals apart using photos of 406 different seals. Photo courtesy of Birenbaum et al.

As with all tech, however, SealNet is not infallible. The software saw seal faces in other body parts, vegetation, and even rocks. In one case, Ingram and her students did a double take at the uncanny resemblance between a rock and a seal face. “[The rock] did look like a seal face,” Ingram says. “The darker parts were about the same distance as the eyes … so you can understand why the software found a face.” Consequently, she says it’s always best to manually check that seal faces identified by the software belong to a real seal.

Like a weary seal hauling itself onto a beach for an involuntary photo shoot, the question of why this is all necessary raises itself. Ingram believes SealNet could be a useful, noninvasive tool for researchers.

Of the world’s pinnipeds—a group that includes seals, walruses, and sea lions—harbor seals are considered the most widely dispersed. Yet knowledge gaps do exist. Other techniques to track seals, such as tagging and aerial monitoring, have their limitations and can be highly invasive or expensive.

Ingram points to site fidelity as an aspect of seal behavior that SealNet could shed more light on. The team’s trials indicated that some harbor seals return to the same haulout sites year after year. Other seals, however, such as two animals the team nicknamed Clove and Petal, appeared at two different sites together. Increasing scientists’ understanding of how seals move around could strengthen arguments for protecting specific areas, says Anders Galatius, an ecologist at Aarhus University in Denmark who was not involved in the project.

Galatius, who is responsible for monitoring Denmark’s seal populations, says the software “shows a lot of promise.” If the identification rates are improved, it could be paired with another photo identification method that identifies seals by distinctive markings on their pelage, he says.

In the future, after further testing, Ingram hopes to develop an app based on SealNet. The app, she says, could possibly allow citizen scientists to contribute to logging seal faces. The program could also be adapted for other pinnipeds and possibly even for cetaceans.

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Red Deer-area boy discovers ancient shark's tooth in his yard – Red Deer Advocate

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A dinosaur-loving Red Deer-area boy found a 60 million-year-old fossilized shark tooth — right in his own front yard.

Max Maurizio, 7, was exploring gravel near his house on an acreage southeast of Red Deer on Monday, when he spotted something that didn’t look like other rocks. It was sharp at one end and about an inch and a half long.

“He came running into the house saying, ‘I found a tooth! I found a tooth!” recalled his mom, Carly Maurizio.

At first, Max’s parents assumed it came from one of their cats. But Carly carefully examined it and decided, “‘it looks pretty old…”

Intrigued by Max’s discovery, his dad, Claudio Maurizio, emailed a photo of the tooth to the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller.

On Tuesday, an emailed response arrived from the museum. The photo had been passed on to Dr. Don Brinkman, an expert on fossil fish and turtles.

Brinkman believes the fossilized tooth very likely belonged to the genus Scapanorhynchus — a type of extinct ancient shark with an elongated snout, whose closest living relative is the goblin shark.

“That is an interesting find,” stated Brinkman in the email.

Scapanorhynchus reached a length of about three metres and was a fully marine animal, “so it is a little unusual getting it in the Red Deer area. However, I have seen a tooth of this genus from exposures of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation in the Tolman Bridge area,” east of Trochu, wrote Brinkman.

He noted rocks around Red Deer are from the Paskapoo Formation and are about 60 million years old.

From 100 million to 66 million years ago, the Prairies were covered by a warm inland sea. Scientists believe this Western Interior Seaway extended 3,000 km, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, was 1,000 km wide and 700 metres deep.

The ancient water body contained a wide array of life, including sharks, bony fish, marine reptiles, birds, snails, ammonites and other mollusks.

The Maurizio family appreciates the information the museum provided on the tooth.

Max is particularly thrilled by his find and wants to become a paleontologist someday, said Carly.

Claudio noted his son is always noticing things that other people don’t. Once, before heading on a nature walk with his grandfather in Ontario, Max predicted he would find a bone — and sure enough, he did discover a small piece of wild animal bone, recalled his father.

Since Max has always been fascinated by dinosaurs, the whole family, including younger brother Meyer, regularly camp at Drumheller and visit the museum at least once a year, said Carly.

“Even when we go on little hikes or regular walks, Max is always looking down at the ground, looking for fossils… It’s quite remarkable that they can be found literally anywhere, even in your own yard,” she added.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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Here’s a close up of the ancient shark’s tooth Max Maurizio, age seven, found in his Red Deer County yard. (Contributed photo).

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This solar storm strike on Earth triggered a Mysterious phenomenon called ‘STEVE’ – HT Tech

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On August 7 and 8, an unexpected solar storm event on Earth displayed a mysterious and rare sky phenomenon called STEVE or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. What is it and how can it affect us? Find out.

We have always associated solar storms with aurora displays, damage to man-made satellites, radio blackouts and GPS disruptions, but it turns out that solar storms can trigger more mysterious phenomenons than that. The August 7 and 8 solar storm, which came as a surprise, caused a strange space phenomenon that left even the scientists puzzled. Many reported seeing a bright stream of light across the sky which was not like any aurora even seen. The question that arises now is what was that stunning light and can it affect us somehow?

The event was first reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “During yesterday’s surprise geomagnetic storm, hot ribbons of plasma flowed through Earth’s magnetosphere. The name of this phenomenon is ‘STEVE’ — short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. It was also sighted in Montana and Pennsylvania”.

The mysterious phenomenon to be born out of a solar storm is called STEVE

STEVE was seen in many locations in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere and reportedly lasted about 40 minutes to an hour. While not much is known about these purple streams of light, we do know some facts about it.

STEVE is a very recent discovery. It was first observed in 2017 by citizen scientists and aurora hunters in northern Canada, according to Live Science. The purple glow is formed due to excessively hot (more than 3000 degrees Celsius) gas ribbons that move through the magnetosphere of the Earth. These gas ribbons typically move much faster than the air surrounding it and when it comes in contact with the radiation of solar storms, it gives out a band of glowing color. These are different from auroras because they are not caused by solar radiations colliding with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen through a process called refraction.

While this is still a superficial understanding of the chemical and physical activities that are taking place to cause this strange phenomenon, it does make for a stunning view across the sky. As for whether it can affect us, so far no evidence shows that these light displays are in any way harmful for us or the planet.

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Meteor Showers Taking Place Thursday and Friday Night – NorfolkToday.ca

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A meteor shower you won’t want to miss.

Gary Boyle, The Backyard Astronomer, tells us we are currently passing through the dusty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.


It last appeared in 1992, and will return again in 2125.

He said the shower is lasting all night long, but 2 a.m. would be the time to see the most meteor.

The Backyard Astronomer suggested keeping an eye out for other things in the sky, as well.

Boyle added the next large shower will be in mid-December, but this one might be a little warmer to sit outside and watch.

Written by Ashley Taylor

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