Banner image showing husky

Climate Innovations: Machine Learning

How Can A Computer Recognise Animals?

Computers can use Machine Learning, a type of Artificial Intelligence, to recognise patterns in sets of data. In the effort to conserve endangered animal populations Machine Learning is now playing a vital part in helping to identify different species.

How Can Machine Learning Protect Endangered Species?

In conservation work, scientists try to track populations of certain animal species by using methods like camera traps to capture images of animals in that location. This results in thousands of images that must be sorted through which is an incredibly time consuming process, especially for smaller organisations. This process can now be sped up by using Machine Learning to scan through these images and automatically recognise different animals.  

In order for the software to be as accurate as possible scientists must be careful of biases in the training data. For example, in 2016 a group of researchers created a computer programme that could spot the difference between huskies and wolves. However, when given new images to test the programme classified a husky as a wolf. After investigating this mistake, they found that the computer had misclassified the husky because of the snowy background in the picture. The training data had only shown the computer pictures of wolves in the snow and not huskies. The more information and variety in a data set allows for higher accuracy in identifying animals and distinguishing them from their background and even other animals in the picture.

Who is using this technology?

There are multiple apps and platforms that use AI to help identify different animal species as part of citizen science projects. Wildbook, InstantWild and AI for Earth all provide a way for individuals and small organisations to gather, upload and process larger data sets without the need for expensive equipment. This allows for animal conservation projects to gather a meaningful amount of data at a faster rate, especially concerning the movement of endangered species which could take many years to gather.   

Rangers in the Serengeti National Park are also using this technology to tackle the poaching crisis. They use AI that has been trained to recognise when poaching is about to take place and immediately informs park rangers so they can step in before any animals are killed. 

Can you tell the difference between huskies and wolves?

One image shows a husky where as the other shows a wolf. Can you tell the difference? The answers are below.

Wolf or husky in snowWolf or husky 2

Can you spot the pear?

Can you spot the pear in amongst a bunch of apples? The answer is below.

Spot the pear


Glasgow Science Centre's new permanent exhibition, Idea No59 celebrates the innovative spirit in us all. On your next visit, come and explore the exciting process of taking ideas and bringing them to life.


Click to expand.

Did you know the wolf?

Wolf or husky 2

This is the Wolf.

Did you know the husky?

Wolf or husky in snow

This is the Husky.

Did you find the Pear?

The pear

Well done.


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