Maine’s FREEPORT: Although facial recognition technology is typically used for surveillance and face authentication, scientists think they’ve discovered a new application: protecting seals.
Seale is a database of seal faces built by a Colgate University research team using photos of many harbor seals in Casco Bay, Maine. In an ecosystem with thousands of seals, the scientists discovered that the tool’s accuracy in classifying marine creatures is close to 100%.
According to team member and Colgate biology professor Krista Ingram, the researchers aim to expand their database so that other researchers can use it. Including uncommon species in the database, such as the Mediterranean monk seal and the Hawaiian monk seal, could assist guide conservation efforts to protect those species, the researcher suggested.
According to Ingram, scientists can learn more about the locations of seals in the ocean by cataloging seal faces and using machine learning to identify them.
She added that understanding their patterns and how they disperse will help any efforts to save the coast. “We need to be able to identify individuals for migratory marine mammals that move around a lot and are difficult to picture in the water.”
Seale is made to automatically identify faces in photos, crop them, and identify them based on human-like facial traits, including the shape of the nose and eyes. SealNet surpassed PrimNet, a comparable program designed for use with primates, which was previously used on seals, according to Colgate researchers.
In April, the Colgate team submitted its research to the scholarly journal Ecology and Evolution for publication. According to the paper, they analyzed more than 1,700 photos of more than 400 distinct seals.
According to the study, “SealNet software adds a significant tool for ecological and behavioral research of marine animals in the expanding field of conservation technology” because of the “easy and abundance of image data that can be analyzed.”
In the United States, harbor seal conservation has been successful. The creatures were formerly the target of bounties in New England because fishermen saw them as pests in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, new safeguards were added to them under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which turned 50 in October, and the population increased.