A large sow brown bear (grizzly) stands up and looks directly into the lens of the camera. This is a close head and shoulders portrait of a large bear

A large sow brown bear (grizzly) stands up and looks directly into the lens of the camera. This is a close head and shoulders portrait of a large bear

Photo by: jared lloyd

jared lloyd

Facial Recognition for Grizzly Bears

New A.I. technology is allowing scientists to keep track of individual grizzlies over their lifetimes.

September 14, 2021

Grizzly bears are big, with brown fur, short rounded ears, and a rump higher than their shoulders. While it can be easy to tell a Grizzly apart from other bears, distinguishing grizzlies from each other is a whole other task.

Scientists at the University of Victoria whose research requires them to monitor individual grizzlies were facing this challenge. Melanie Clapham, a wildlife conservationist, and her team created a solution — BearID, a facial recognition software for bears.

Depending on the season, grizzly bears amass and lose a significant amount of weight, changing their appearance drastically throughout their 20–25 year-long lifespans. Clapman began to wonder if she could use artificial intelligence (A.I.) to recognize bears’ faces the same way it does with humans.

Clapham connected with software developers, Ed Miller, and Mary Nguyen, to develop a machine learning algorithm to identify individual bears.

​​“We thought, machine learning is really great at identifying people, what could it do for bears?” Mr. Miller said to the New York Times.

Because bears don’t have spots or stripes, BearID uses facial characteristics like the distance between a bear’s eyes, nose tip, and forehead to match a bear’s face to its name in the system.

To train the algorithm, the developers used more than 4,000 previously identified bear images to teach the A.I. Then asked the system to spot the differences between the bears. While BearID isn’t perfect yet (it’s accuracy rate is 84%) scientists hope to keep improving the software.

“Learning about individual animals and their life stories can have really positive effects on public engagement and really help with conservation efforts,” says Clapham.

Clapham hopes BearID can help reduce direct intervention between humans and wildlife for a less invasive approach to wildlife monitoring. In the future, scientists could use BearID with camera trap images to track bears’ movements without having to capture and tag them.

In the future, Clapham and her team hope to expand BearID to other animals like sloths, sun bears, caribou, and even wolves.

Next Up

Plucking CO2 from the Air Could Decarbonize Food, Fuel, and Fashion

Products made from carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from the atmosphere are part of a fast-growing trend to decarbonize nearly everything we use. Food, drink, fuel, and plastics can all be made using CO2 from the air. And recycling carbon could create a circular economy that vastly reduces pollution and waste.

Saving Baby Elephants from a Deadly Herpes Virus

One biotechnology company is accelerating efforts to eradicate a fatal disease affecting endangered elephants.

Ancient DNA Reveals New Evidence, Changing What We Know About Human Evolution

New DNA evidence found in sediment from Denisova Cave in Siberia reveal that it may have been a common meeting place that overlapped with Neanderthal, Denisova, and Homo sapiens. Could this have altered our evolution as modern humans?

Drone Images of Coastal Kelp Show Recovery is Possible

California’s coastal kelp forests could be making a welcome revival. Drone images show seaweed beds recovering along the north coast in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

Cutting Methane is Quickest Way to Limit Global Warming Before 2030

President Joe Biden has announced plans to tackle climate change by reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by at least 30% by 2030. His pledge, agreed with the European Union, aims to raise ambitions for world leaders to combat global warming ahead of the critical COP26 climate summit in November.

There's a Biodiversity Crisis--Here's What You Need to Know

Despite the world slowing down during the pandemic and studies hailing the slowdown of pollution and positive benefits on the environment, there’s one thing that continued full throttle: the globe’s biodiversity crisis.

‘Bird Brain’ May Have Helped Birds Survive the Dinosaur Extinction

Recently, a fossil of an ancient bird skull was discovered, shedding light on how birds’ large brains may have helped them survive the dinosaur-killing asteroid.

How a Whale Song is Helping Scientists Map the Seafloor

The echoes of fin whale vocalizations are so powerful they can penetrate volcanic rock and sediment on the ocean floor. Scientists are using these seismic waves to learn more about the deep sea.

Can You Teach a Goldfish to Drive?

A new experiment suggests these household fish actually make good drivers.

Can Birds Warn Us About Natural Disasters?

Researchers think birds can hear hurricanes and tsunamis coming. Scientists are hoping to capitalize on that sixth sense to develop an early detection system to save lives.

Related To: