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AI Hackathon to teach us more about the Baltic Sea

Guillemots return to the same ledge on Stora Karlsö, outside Gotland every spring, to lay eggs and raise their chicks. This year, they were filmed during their spring months and the extensive material holds plenty of interesting insights. But how do you structure 2000 hours of filmed material? To identify and analyze behaviors, events, and abnormalities is a time-consuming task for researchers. Enter AI and citizen science.
Guillemot in the air outside the research station at Stora Karlsö, Gotland

In November, a two-day hackathon will be held in Gothenburg, with the aim of accelerating the research of guillemots and about the sensitive ecosystems of the Baltic Sea. Data scientists, programmers, and UX designers will team up with WWF, the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU), Stockholm Resilience Center, the Baltic Seabird Project, and AI Innovation of Sweden, to work out ways to structure data on the seabirds.

Baltic Seabird AI/UX Hackathon- information and registration

Citizen Science and slow TV

Last year, WWF and SLU invited the public to watch and comment on events in a live broadcast from one of the ledges on Stora Karlsö. Comments paired with time codes have enabled researchers to make great leaps forward in analyzing the material, they simply know what to look closely at, and when it occurred. The broadcast on WWF's website was a success, resulting in 1300+ comments and many new insights. The interest in three months of live broadcasting from a barren rock shelf can be compared to Swedish Television (SVT) somewhat unexpected viewing success in “slow TV” this spring, Den stora älgvandringen – three months of the quiet, live broadcast of forests waiting for the yearly moose migration.

"The public's great interest and efforts in previous projects have spurred us to continue to drive the development of the citizen research initiative and to allocate additional resources for, for example, hackathon and platform development," says marine expert Metta Wiese, WWF.

The guillemots as ‘litmus test’ of a sensitive ecosystem

Ecosystems are important for marine balance, but many of them are unfortunately out of balance. By studying seabirds around the clock, scientists have gained new insights into their life patterns, an important key in working to recreate resilient seas. 

"We know that the herring these birds catch around the colony to feed the chicks are vital to them. Finding out more about how long they need to be away to find a fish and if some individuals are better than others at finding them, is interesting from a purely biological point of view, but also important information when it comes to studying how the seabirds on an individual level respond to ecosystem changes. One typical change is the amount of fish in the Baltic Sea," says marine researcher Jonas Hentai-Sundberg at SLU.

What artificial intelligence can do

For Metta Wiese and Jonas Hentai-Sundberg, the hackathon will be a unique opportunity to collaborate cross-sectorally to save the seas. Using AI, researchers hope that the mapping of individuals and common events can be automated, emancipating resources of researchers and citizen science to observations and interpretations of the unusual and rare. 

"Being able to identify individuals and events such as mating, brawl, feeding, arrivals and departures, gives the researchers the necessary tools to an in-depth understanding of the lives of the guillemots. Watching thousands of hours of film is impossible – but with automation, we hope to get a broader picture of everything happening on the ledge. If we then have knowledge of how the birds are moving, perhaps machine learning can be used to identify what they are doing and maybe who is doing it?" says Jonas Hentai-Sundberg at SLU.

AI Innovation of Sweden, WWF, and SLU are partnering with many more organizations for the hackathon. 

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Baltic Seabird AI/UX hackathon, November 21-22

Organization
WWF, SLU, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Baltic Seabird project, Chalmers AI Research Centre, AI Innovation of Sweden

With support from
Ocean Data Factory Sweden, SMHI, Space Data Lab, CGIT, Annotell, Zenuity